Q&A: The situation at Portsmouth

The demise of Portsmouth would have far-reaching implications, on and off the pitch.
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The Independent Online

What are the implications if Portsmouth are wound up by the High Court next week?

Quite simply, one of the most famous clubs in English football, one that was founded by Alderman J E Pink and five friends in 1898 and won the League Championship in 1949 and 1950, would cease to exist.

Has this kind of thing ever occurred before?

Not to a club in the Premier League. The last time an English League club went bust was in 1992 when Aldershot Town went out of business and resigned from the League. This is the first time it has happened in the top flight, so it would be a new experience for everyone.

What would that mean for the players?

Their contracts would be terminated immediately and they would become free agents, able to sign for any team with whom they could agree terms. As free agents, they are allowed to find a new club outside the two transfer windows. David James, the England goalkeeper, would have to find a new home as a matter of urgency, as national team manager Fabio Capello insists all his squad must be playing regular first-team football. All Portsmouth players on loan from other teams would return to their parent clubs.

Do Portsmouth have any players that other Premier League teams would want?

Not many. They sold Younes Kaboul to Tottenham Hotspur and Asmir Begovic to Stoke last month, leaving the cupboard pretty bare. James would surely find a new home, and Kevin-Prince Boateng, Hermann Hreidarsson and Nadir Belhadj could also be useful additions to a Premier League squad. The rest would probably have to tout for contracts in the Football League.

How would it effect the rest of the Premier League season?

All Portsmouth's results so far would be wiped out and the points removed from the teams who beat or drew with them. The goals for and against would also be expunged. This would give an immediate boost to teams like Liverpool, who surprisingly lost 2-0 to Portsmouth in December. The sides most effected would be Manchester United and Arsenal, who both dished out hidings home and away to Pompey this season.

What about Portsmouth's place in the Premier League?

The South Coast club are currently bottom and falling, so no one would actually move up any places. The Premier League would operate as a 19-team division for the rest of the season, and then revert to 20 teams in May when only two clubs would be relegated to the Championship, while three would come up.

Does that just pass the problem on to the Football League?

In some ways it does, but they would adopt the same policy and everyone below Portsmouth would all shuffle up one place. In each division one fewer club would be relegated, meaning only one team would drop out of the League.

What about the FA Cup?

Portsmouth go to Southampton for a local derby in the fifth round on Saturday. Should they remain in the competition and then go into liquidation, the FA Cup committee would sit to decide what to do. Either Southampton would get a bye into the quarter-finals, or Sunderland, who Portsmouth beat in the fourth round, could be asked to step in and play Southampton instead.

Would it be the end of Portsmouth FC for good?

They could reform as a "phoenix" club and start again at the bottom. Aldershot did this after they went bust in 1992, climbed the divisions and are currently just outside the play-off positions in League Two. AFC Wimbledon were created in 2002 when Wimbledon were renamed the Milton Keynes Dons. Currently, they are flying high in the Blue Square Premier. There are no hard and fast guidelines for how far they would fall. Football Association rules state that they would have to apply to the governing body of a league for a place, at least two divisions lower than where they started.

How can they avoid all this happening?

They could pay HM Revenue and Customs what they owe – £7.4m – but they cannot do that until they find a new owner with deep pockets. Or they could go into administration, which would immediately stop the winding-up proceedings but would ensure an immediate nine-point deduction and almost certain relegation to the Championship.

How did they get into this mess in the first place?

Put simply, they paid too much in transfer fees and player wages when times were good. The club's owner until last summer, Sacha Gaydamak, funded then manager Harry Redknapp's spending by loaning Portsmouth money and borrowing from banks. When the recession hit, the banks sought their money back and Gaydamak wanted out. Even though they have sold £94m worth of players since winning the FA Cup in 2008, Portsmouth are still more than £50m in debt and now have few players worth selling.

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