Birch bemoans Pompey crippling player wage bill

Tal Ben Haim is Pompey's highest earner Picture: Robin Jones
Tal Ben Haim is Pompey's highest earner Picture: Robin Jones
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Another administration, more crippling legacy issues.

For administrator Trevor Birch, Pompey’s towering wage bill remains the primary burden in his attempts to prolong the club’s life.

What’s more, it is an inherited debt he believes is hampering attempts to find a new buyer.

The Blues’ annual wage bill comes in at around a staggering £12.5m.

That is despite having the smallest squad in the Football League and having gone through a previous administration only two years ago.

In addition, Birch estimates Pompey will be left with a £5-6m annual wage bill even after this season.

It is the legacy of former owners CSI and ex-chief executive David Lampitt which imploded so dramatically.

Apart from Tal Ben Haim – the club’s highest earner – all current players signed contracts during Lampitt’s 20-month tenure.

A total of 14 of them are contracted beyond the current campaign – with just three expiring this summer.

Unlike regulations in Scotland, footballers’ contracts are protected from any threat of redundancy in the English game.

Vince Wolanin last week pulled out of attempts to buy the club citing ‘fiscally imprudent contracts signed that in our view would only further plunder the club all over again’.

Balram Chainrai held talks with Birch on Sunday after showing interest in taking over the club for a fourth time.

But the club administrator is adamant the existing wage bill remains a crucial sticking point for any prospective owner.

Erik Huseklepp and Liam Lawrence have already joined rival clubs for the remainder of the season to help ease the financial strain.

Others are certain to follow as Birch looks to trim daunting pay figures, like Dave Kitson’s reported wage of £18,000 per week.

He said: ‘The wage bill is the primary difficulty in getting people to buy the club for next season.

‘They are very prohibitive and too high for the division.

‘I need to try to restructure that for next year and I am doing my best.

‘This started in the summer in the way wages were run and the contracts that were given.

‘People want to get a competitive edge by paying more for better players – and that is what happened at Portsmouth.

‘Look at other clubs, too.

‘Wigan, Blackpool, Wolves, QPR, Stoke – all of these clubs have made losses and it’s okay if they have got a benefactor bailing them out.

‘When that stops, though, all sorts of problems occur.

‘Looking at Portsmouth, the wages will be £5m or £6m for the next few years.

‘This is not straight forward when trying to restructure this.

‘The likes of the Football League and PFA have got to agree with what we are attempting to do.

‘In fact, there are a lot of moving parts involving other people.’

Ben Haim’s reported £36,000-a-week deal was awarded by former Pompey chief executive Peter Storrie back in August 2009.

It is a signing which continues to be unsustainable for Pompey.

In addition, long-serving duo Kanu and Hayden Mullins signed renegotiated contracts under Lampitt.

This summer, most-recent owners CSI recruited Greg Halford, Luke Varney, David Norris, Stephen Henderson, Jason Pearce, Benjani, Huseklepp and Marko Futacs.

And while their ability cannot be questioned, once Pompey hit financial problems they could no longer meet such wage commitments.

The Blues’ players, who have still to receive January’s wages, have since agreed to take a pay deferral until the end of the season, helping out the club immensely.

But money still needs to be saved, with Lawrence’s Cardiff departure until the end of the season effectively salvaging around £250,000.

The contracts of Jamie Ashdown, Ricardo Rocha and Benjani will expire at the end of the season.

Others, though, are on longer-term deals and face being sent out on loan at any moment.

Birch added: ‘I cannot, hand on heart, say no-one else will go.

‘It changes every single day. If there is an offer for a £1m loan fee, we are not in a position to ignore that.

‘I am doing my best not to let players leave and would like to keep the squad intact.

‘But, unfortunately, we are in a situation where needs must.’