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DES KELLY: Portsmouth are cheats, so let them go to the wall
Published : 13 Feb 2010 10:21:06
There are Premier League owners who are so fabulously rich they have scrambled Faberge eggs for breakfast. These men are blessed with such wealth they have no reason to get out of bed in the morning. Luckily they have motorised beds that drive them directly to where their yachts are moored, often via the poor parts of town in order to inspire the work-shy to make more of themselves. Troubled times: Portsmouth Chief Executive Peter Storrie faces the media at Fratton Park But these billionaires have been presented with a dilemma. The Premier League are asking for Portsmouth to be given an £11million advance on their television income in an act of unfamiliar charity, a sum that would keep them out of the death grip of the tax-man for a few weeks more and stall the imminent threat of administration. What is a billionaire oligarch to do? Hand football's equivalent of a few quid to a Big Issue seller, or politely decline in case this encourages more begging? On the face of it, chucking Pompey some loose change sounds a reasonable, even compassionate gesture. A proud and historic club will remain solvent and the 'most popular league in the world'™ are spared the embarrassment of watching one of their own being dragged off to the poorhouse. But this solution is plain wrong. In fact, it is a disgraceful idea, an appalling, short-term botch that would set a horrible precedent. Portsmouth have wilfully spent millions they didn't have. For years they siphoned off cash that should have gone to the taxman and juggled funds borrowed from various offshore banks. Not to improve the facilities at Fratton Park or to build a new stadium, but to lure players to the south coast with astronomical sums of money. They were shopping again yesterday, landing a Serbian defender despite their financial plight. But there has never been a workable plan to meet these ridiculous costs; nothing beyond a vague hope that a trophy, another loan or a dodgy benefactor might cover the debts one day. They are forever like the fool who buys a Ferrari and then heads to the casino hoping to win the money to pay for it. However much sympathy anyone feels for their fans (there but for the grace of God, etc.), remember this is a club that earned £70m in their 2008 FA Cup-winning season and still managed to report a £17m loss. No supporters were complaining then. They were 'living the dream', just like Leeds United had. More from Des Kelly... DES KELLY: Captain Chav John Terry is now England's Daddy Fool05/02/10 DES KELLY: Manchester United fans win with flying colours29/01/10 DES KELLY: Cool it, Tev and Nev - and that can't get lost in translation22/01/10 DES KELLY: Surely it's time to send Benitez through Anfield's exit door15/01/10 Des Kelly: Chill wind of debt keeps clubs away from January sales09/01/10 Des Kelly: The age old debate. Can Schumacher and Woods cut it?01/01/10 Des Kelly's Boxing Day quiz: Did John Terry's dad have snow this Christmas?25/12/09 DES KELLY: Our big fat zero without sport18/12/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE But if Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore's 'ring-round' to the other 19 clubs manages to whip up some temporary PompeyAid, it gives a green light to every owner to act just as irresponsibly, safe in the knowledge that their Sugar Daddy will step in if the credit card is too far over the limit. Why shouldn't Portsmouth suffer the consequences of years of mismanagement and misadventure? What is the point of a sensibly run outfit like Wolves trying to remain in the top flight with a reasonable wage structure when Pompey are blithely excused for running wildly out of control? What incentive is there for a Championship club to operate on a budget after reaching the Premier League when they see the best way to cling on to their status is to pile loan upon loan? Arsene Wenger called this smoke-and-mirrors accounting 'financial doping' and he is absolutely right. Pompey have been cheating, plain and simple. Tell me, what makes Crystal Palace, Stockport County, Cardiff City and others currently threatened with ruin so different from Portsmouth? Why should Pompey get a special handout while these clubs fret about going bust? Instead of finding ways to prop up the current mess, the Premier League should be addressing the real issue, which is to put a check on the staggering level of debt in the game. It won't happen. While Scudamore's job is to gather Premier League owners around the same table, he knows they would still cut one another's throats at the first opportunity in the name of 'business'. But it's actually terrible business. In the current economic climate, any sensible league would be seriously discussing salary caps, shared sponsorship revenue and a broader distribution of television cash, mirroring models such as America's National Football League. Instead, the clubs would rather look after themselves, chuck any straggler a hand-out and move on. The sadness is a Premier League club will have to go to the wall before football finally comes to its senses. And, uncharitable as it may be to say so, if that club is Portsmouth, then so be it. Some Andy adviceEnemies: But Sheringham and Cole worked together on the pitch The injury to Ashley Cole means John Terry and Wayne Bridge may have to share the same dressing room sooner than anyone expected. But players can succeed, even if they despise one another, as Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham demonstrated with their famous hate-hate relationship at Manchester United. As Cole explained in a recent FourFourTwo interview: 'I couldn't stand Sheringham. We played a friendly in Milan in 1997, just after he'd signed. He said something on the pitch and I didn't like it. ''I'm only trying to help you,' he said. ''I don't need your help, you p****', I said. 'So you don't have to be best mates with the people you work with. I usually got on well with people, but me and Teddy? Nah.' England should call him up to act as a squad counsellor. It sounds like he understands exactly what the rancid mood in the camp is going to be like. Fabio vow of omerta over TerryWhen Fabio Capello was guest of honour at the League Managers' Association gala dinner this week, it wasn't so much a case of there being an elephant in the room as an entire herd of jumbos tip-toeing between the tables. Silent: Fabio Capello Four England bosses were on stage - Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson, Terry Venables and Graham Taylor - for a question-and-answer session at Wembley Stadium on Thursday night, with one obvious topic up for discussion. But then we found out the sacked England captain had acquired a new status as 'He Who Must Not Be Named'. Throughout the entire evening, in a room full of managers, coaches, ex-players, journalists and sponsors, the subject of John Terry was never broached with any national team manager. I watched as Capello shook his head and made it clear he was unwilling to take the stage until guarantees were given that he would not have to discuss the England captaincy, or anything to do with the World Cup, for that matter. It seemed a feeble stance from a man who has built his reputation on jutting out that resolute jawline and never ducking a challenge. If he didn't want to discuss Terry, he could have explained so on stage, the managers present would have applauded him, the rest would have accepted his position. Instead, the whole LMA set-piece was made to look faintly ludicrous. Sepp's just a bad jokeIt might save time to run a weekly item on this page entitled 'Sepp Blatter Does Something Stupid'. This week, the FIFA chief excelled himself by announcing John Terry's liaisons were an Anglo-Saxon issue that would have been 'applauded if it had happened in Latin countries'. And so in one fell swoop, Blatter managed to be casually sexist, add a dash of light racism and top it off with a complete misunderstanding of the captaincy issue. That is one hearty, post-lunch belch. Of course, this is the same Blatter who once urged female football players to wear tighter shorts and endorsed Cristiano Ronaldo's attempt to join Real Madrid as a fight against 'modern slavery'. I can't quite work out whether the man charged with the responsibility of running world football is catastrophically cack-handed when it comes to humour, or if the joke is really on all of us. The puck stops hereHere's pressure for you. The Winter Olympics are under way in Vancouver, but did you know that no Canadian has ever won a gold medal on home territory? To try to remedy this, they have spent £100million on a plan they call The Top Secret Project in which teams of scientists have tried to provide Canada with an edge, using missile guidance systems to track skiers, giant slingshots to help speed skaters with cornering and other high-tech assistance. But after all that investment and attention to detail, it turns out the Canadians are only concerned with winning gold in the hockey (They don't even bother with the 'ice' bit).I was in Vancouver during the summer and a friend of mine summed up the national mood perfectly: 'Win the hockey and it's a good Olympics for Canada. Fail and the whole event is a waste of bloody money.' Dubai-bye for now, skipperLast week I was assured by a number of readers John Terry's private life would not impinge on his professional work. This was undermined somewhat by the sight of Chelsea's captain disappearing to Dubai after the Everton defeat and skipping the FA Cup-tie with Cardiff City. But it did provide my favourite headline of the week: 'Terry Given Time Off For Bad Behaviour'.