Portsmouth - Is another points deduction a constructive punishment?

Fratton Park

Trouble is continuing at Portsmouth Football club, and may get worse before it gets better, if at all.

When Portsmouth defeated Cardiff City in the FA Cup Final back in 2008, and qualified for European football for the first time in their history, things were looking very promising for a club who had the likes of Glen Johnson, David James, Sylvain Distin, Lassana Diarra, Niko Kranjcar and Sulley Muntari.

Fast forward to the 9th February 2013 and a Portsmouth squad consisting of lower league and non-league journeymen like goalkeeper Simon Eastwood and defender Yassin Moutaouakil have lost to Bournemouth 2-0 and have consolidated their position in the relegation zone of League One.

Since then the club have suffered two lapses into administration and two separate point deductions which guaranteed their relegations from the Premier League and the Championship.

If they pull themselves out of administration again this season (a goal which the Football League says needs to be met if they want to play in 2013/2014) then they will once again lose ten points and shorten their odds of falling into League Two.

Portsmouth have negotiated deals with former players to drop their demands for unpaid wages, opened the door for the highest earners to leave and have brought in free agents to put together the first ever match day squad full of debutants against Plymouth in the Capital One Cup back in August.

The FA and the Football League are implementing a hard line stance against the south coast club in order to set a precedent as they enter a new era of financial responsibility with the implementation of Financial Fair Play in European football, the Premier League and the Football League.

The question needs to be raised about how effective this punishment is when dealing with clubs in financial difficulty and if it is actually dishing out any kind of justice.

Both times the club were previously punished it guaranteed their relegation and further kicked the team down the divisions, forcing them to let go of star players, lose staff and suffer a drop in revenue from gate receipts and television money.

Presumably it is meant to hit the owners in the pocket and punish them for being irresponsible.

However, in Portsmouth’s case, Sulaiman Al Fahim, Ali al-Faraj, Balram Chainrai and Vladimir Antonov are clearly not concerned at the situation their actions have left the club in and so the punishment is no concern of theirs. So surely the only people who suffer are those who actually stick by the club?

So as usual, fans are the ones who suffer. Around 10,000 people are parting with their wages every week to watch a team which has been decimated by the farcical ownership and is working under the shadow of an impending point deduction and relegation into the bottom tier of the Football League.

I understand that the FA and Football League want to promote financial stability among their members but when a club is in a situation like Portsmouth, which is in a free fall towards oblivion despite their efforts to drop their debts and expenditure, surely a helping hand is needed rather than a clenched fist.

Policy involving player contracts could be explored by the FA and PFA so that once clubs are put into administration players are given an amnesty to move to teams outside of the transfer window without any compensation and so are moving their expensive contracts away from the failing club.

Money doesn’t need to be thrown at the problem but instead some constructive route that allows teams to gradually curtail costs could be implemented which would help clubs find their level in a less damaging manner without so many local businesses and services going out of pocket before the wealthy, ruthless owners.

If no help is offered, and Portsmouth Football Club ceases to exist after liquidation, are the FA and Football League really going to feel that they have done a good job?

image: © Ben Sutherland

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