For the second in this end of year round-up of posts, a few thoughts on the Portsmouth FC situation and the response of some of their support.
Pompey Chimes Out of Tune
Portsmouth FC fans ought to deserve some sympathy and, for a while, I have given it to them. But over the course of the year they have started to grate with, rather than ingratiate themselves to, some fellow football fans; me included.
What has happened at Portsmouth could happen to any club. Over time, clubs have been set back or destroyed by the unscrupulous actions of local businessmen or tainted by much vaunted foreign owners. The continued failure of Fit & Proper rules for ownership should be a constant source of embarrassment to the footballing authorities and one can only hope that the financial fair play rules are more adept at preventing the financial meltdown of clubs funded well beyond self-sustainable means.
But as the Portsmouth administration lingers on for the second time, I have grown tired of the self-righteous bullshittery mouthed by certain supporters of the club. When questions were raised about the high profile (for League One) short term signings being made by the club at the start of the season; including a player who, prior to signing for Pompey, couldn't negotiate a deal with a club with 18,000 crowds and a salary cap to meet, they couldn't see the problem. Detractors were chided for knowing nothing about the financial state of the club and generally being "clueless". True the administrator should not be running the club so close to the financial precipice, but who really knows?
There was nothing to stop Portsmouth signing professional players to pep up their squad this season, but with many local businesses remaining unpaid or receiving pennies in the pound, the irony of signing Championship and League One players appeared lost on many. You can point the finger at previous owners, but the one constant that remains, for now, is the football club and as one commenter on this excellent post at The Two Unfortunates was quick to point out, the administrator of the football club was sitting on a £6m bank balance.
Whether the amount is a fact or not, the problem remains that yet again a football club hits financial meltdown and leaves a trail of destruction for local businesses in its wake, yet they still have funds to pay players' wages. To creditors offered 20p in the £ in the first CVA (and never saw it) and potentially 2p in the £ now, that £6m that Pompey have burning a hole in their bank account (and are using to fund good League One players) must provide great succour as they struggle to keep their business running and cut jobs.
Accusations of jealousy abounded on social networks;
"You were only hoping for an easy three points" - No we are looking for fairness in the way clubs are treated and special cases not being made for others.
"We have a right to sign players to be competitive; it's in the Football League rules" - What rules are these then? The Football League rules state:
"Each club shall play its full strength in all matches played under the auspices of The League unless some satisfactory reasons are given."
That is the strongest available side. If you can only sign League 2 standard players or use your youth players that is tough.
"It's just not fair on Portsmouth" - Who said football, and life for that matter, is fair? If you are dealt a duff hand, then you just have to play it. Cup finals and AC Milan at Fratton Park - shall we disregard those then, given you, in effect, achieved them through financial doping?
"You just don't understand, it is a lot more complicated than a simplistic narrative" - I am sure it is, but the fact remains how certain fans behave now they have got here is causing people to lose any compassion or understanding they might have had for the circumstances.
I have even heard the "big club" card being played by Pompey fans this year, the joker in the pack that belies a multitude of sins. How are they measured as a big club? Crowds of less than 20,000? An FA Cup in 2008? A Europa League campaign? Two League titles over 60 years ago? The chiding of other club's fans demonstrated an arrogance that saddened me. The use of "tin-pot" to deride fans of other smaller clubs; the last desperate cry of fans who cannot accept their club has found its rightful place, below where they perceive they should be and they refuse to accept it.
Underlying the questions being asked is a belief amongst supporters of other clubs that Pompey are getting opportunities that were not afforded to clubs in similar positions before. Smaller clubs have been to hell in a handcart for less. Pompey's points deductions have been nowhere near those suffered by Luton Town or South coast rivals AFC Bournemouth. To think there was talk of an appeal against the ten point deduction when they eventually exit administration (again) was some sort of sick joke.
The fact that football remains the exception in terms of insolvencies, thanks to the ridiculous football creditor rules, is one thing, but to see varying punishments being doled out by the authorities following CVAs and administrations is quite another. Portsmouth fans should be thankful that they haven't been treated any worse. Other clubs have.
Much reference is made to the wonderful support of the South Coast club and whilst the Pompey Trust deserve enormous credit for their efforts to salvage their club, the tribal and aggressive rhetoric of a number of their supporters in defending their club and its current undertakings, leaves me cold.
I don't wish ill on Portsmouth FC, I really do hope they find a long-term solution to the club's woes, but forgive me if I cock a deaf 'un to the sanctimony. If Kevin McCabe ever properly pulled the plug on the Blades' funding, or sold out to a miscreant businessman, I'd like to think I'd accept our situation and deal with it with a greater deal of maturity and lesser degree of arrogance than that demonstrated by some of the Portsmouth support in the last twelve months.