Administrator confident of finding buyer for Pompey

Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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POMPEY’S new administrator admits the club could still be docked further points but says he is confident of finding a buyer.

Trevor Birch, of accountancy firm Pannell Kerr Forster, who has been appointed administrator of the club along with partners Ian Gould and Bryan Jackson, described the way the club has been run as unsustainable.

Portsmouth administrator Trevor Birch and Portsmouth's Chief Executive David Lampitt (right) during the npower Football League Championship match at Oakwell, Barnsley.

Portsmouth administrator Trevor Birch and Portsmouth's Chief Executive David Lampitt (right) during the npower Football League Championship match at Oakwell, Barnsley.

Portsmouth Football Club went into administration on Friday for the second time in two years after a hearing at the High Court in London.

Asked what had gone wrong, Mr Birch said: ‘In simplest terms, expenditure has exceeded income in a large way, predominately due to handing out unsustainable salaries to the players on long-term contracts which has been funded by what we call a fragile ownership of the club over recent years.

‘I’m not sure it’s about executives running it in an inappropriate way; it’s a funding model which is inherently unstable.

‘You have an owner who is funding excess of expenditure over income, and he’s prepared to fund that, you can’t say that’s inexcusable, that is just a model that is unstable.’

Mr Birch, 54, denied the club was still paying money owed to some former players but added: ‘They still have some pretty onerous contracts with the players that still remain.’

He said the highest-paid player at Fratton Park was on more than £30,000 a week, which he described as ‘crazy’ for a Championship club.

Players and staff have still not been paid their wages for January but Mr Birch expects that to be sorted soon.

The club’s bank accounts were frozen while there was the possibility of the court making a winding-up order at the request of HMRC. But going into administration means the accounts can be accessed again.

Mr Birch, an ex-footballer – who has held chief executive posts at Chelsea, Derby County, Leeds United, Everton and Sheffield United – is optimistic about the future of Pompey.

‘The only club that has actually physically gone out of existence is Maidstone United in 1992, so there is always somebody that will come forward,’ he said.

‘It’s a one-club city, fantastic fan base – if we can restructure behind the scenes in terms of its debts then yes there’s a great opportunity to sell the club.’

The club has already been docked 10 points for going into administration but if Pompey do not come out via a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) there is a risk of the Football League deducting further points.

Mr Birch said: ‘The precedent is there for those clubs that didn’t come out via a CVA of incurring further point penalties, Leeds being the latest one who didn’t come out via a CVA and they were docked a further 15 points before the start of that particular season.

‘That will be a threat if it didn’t come out via a CVA but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t come out via a CVA at this stage.’

While Pompey have had a troubled recent history with a string of owners Mr Birch said it would be difficult to change the Football League’s fit and proper person test.

He said: ‘The Football League have a fit and proper test which has to be run on a series of objective measures rather than subjective measures because if they turn people down just on the subjective basis then they are going to be open to attack and trying to defend those claims is obviously going to be costly, that will then take funds away from clubs from the central distribution so it’s a bit of a difficult circle.’