Sam Wallace: Ripples hit whole community

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The Independent Football

To read the administrator's report into the finances of Portsmouth, as revealed in The Independent today, is to see the disaster that is this poor, benighted football club in wince-inducing detail.

Everything from the £2.074m owed to the Israeli "super-agent" Pini Zahavi and the £338,400 in unpaid wages and bonuses owed to Sylvan Distin to the £38 that Portsmouth owe the Football Association is there. It is the guts of a football club laid bare and the figures are staggering.

Inevitably, it is the smaller amounts among the £105m that catch the eye. What on earth was that unpaid bill for £14.84 owed to Trent Pottery and Furniture in Naresborough for? Who ran up the £40 bill to Pukka Pies? Why is the Ministry of Defence owed £626.92? There are similarities in Portsmouth's accounts to the great collapse of Leeds United when the bill for Peter Ridsdale's office fish tank became a matter of public record. Surely only calamitous Portsmouth could end up owing a Scout troop in Guernsey £697. The Groin and Hernia Clinic on Harley Street is owed £695. Most of these companies and individuals will be lucky if they see a quarter of their money.

There are sad stories in there too. St John Ambulance, a charity which provides a crucial first-aid service for fans on match day, is owed £2,701.91. That is money the organisation says it desperately needs. Even the local cash and carry is down £221.60.

The high-level sums make the headlines, but in every unpaid bill to a local supplier or school there is another story of how the collapse of a city's club can affect people in every walk of life. The players, clubs and agents owed money will be able to shrug and write it off. For the club's landladies, local picture framers, and Fruity Faces of Esher (Surrey's leading supplier of inflatable fruit carrying cases) the debt will be much harder to bear.