Football: Pompey's cash crisis leaves players unpaid

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The Independent Online
The extent of Portsmouth's financial plight was revealed yesterday as the club confirmed they had not yet been able to pay last month's wages to their players and staff.

Supporters have also been warned that the Fratton End stand may have to be closed for Saturday's game against Stoke as renovation work has been halted because the builders have not being paid in full.

A Portsmouth spokeswoman confirmed that the club have been experiencing a "temporary cash-flow problem", but insisted that staff and players would receive their November wages in the near future.

Terry Venables, who was reported to have bought a controlling interest in the club for just pounds 1 over the summer, is meeting banks and financial consultants in a bid to resolve the situation following his return from Australia's failed World Cup qualification attempt last night.

But although he has pledged his future to the club, who are currently bottom of the First Division, he admitted there is a continuing "problem with finances".

The club spokeswoman, who said this was the first time players had not been paid on time, said: "Our cash-flow problems have been well chronicled. We have made no secret of them. We have a particular problem this week, but are confident of resolving the situation at the earliest stage.

"We have got people working around the clock to ease the cash-flow problem. We are owed a lot of money, but that is staggered over time, such as with transfer fees for players we have sold.

"Mr Venables has been in Australia and a few things have escalated during that time, but now he is back at the helm and involved in meetings with banks and financial people to sort it out. We are disappointed that the matter has entered the public forum, when people have been assured it would be dealt with swiftly and adequately internally."

She also confirmed that work had been halted on the structure below the Fratton End stand which includes a restaurant, because of the financial problems. "We need to pay the builders, but the money from the Football Trust only arrives in monthly instalments," she said.

Fans, including season ticket holders, have been told to await further information as to whether the stand will be open for Saturday's match.

The spokeswoman insisted that the problems were nowhere near as bad as 20 years ago, when a fund-raising campaign had to be launched to keep the club afloat.

But many supporters seem to have lost patience with the club, who almost reached the play-offs last year, but have since slumped into the relegation zone.

John Westwood, a member of the supporters' club who has officially changed his middle names to "Portsmouth Football Club", said: "Everyone respects Terry Venables' abilities as a football coach, but much less so as a businessman. We seem to have stumbled from disaster to disaster, which is especially frustrating if you look at the potential here."

Venables went on local television last night to explain that although the bank had been "very tough", he still believed he would be successful in attracting more money into the club.

Brendan Batson, of the Professional Footballers' Association, said none of the Portsmouth players had approached the PFA about not having received their wages, which should have been paid into their accounts last Friday. But he said: "We are aware that there seems to be a short-term problem and we will be checking it out."