FA to probe Portsmouth's £105m meltdown

Shock move to Fratton Park by head of integrity unit will hinder investigation
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The Independent Football

Portsmouth's revelations about their shambolic financial mismanagement are to be probed by the Football Association – although the FA finds itself in the extraordinary position of having just lost its chief investigator to Portsmouth.

The FA's financial regulation team has already taken a keen interest in the remarkable facts and figures outlined by the club's administrator, Andrew Andronikou, as revealed by The Independent on Wednesday. However, it is hamstrung by the fact that its "head of integrity", David Lampitt, resigned two weeks ago to take up the position of Portsmouth's chief executive.

The move shocked the FA, where Lampitt had worked for seven years. Yesterday sources at the FA said that Lampitt had been "removed from front-line duty" while he saw out his notice. It is understood that an acting "head of integrity" has been put in Lampitt's place and that his former team is now poring over the figures that make up the £105m debts of Portsmouth for evidence of wrong-doing.

As Lampitt is a former accountant with an expertise in football governance, there was widespread disbelief in the FA that he would leave for Portsmouth. His team had worked closely with Andronikou ever since the club went into administration on 26 February. Now the FA has its most experienced investigator "crossing over to the other side", as one source put it, as it tries to untangle arguably the worst case of financial mismanagement in modern English football.

It is not clear whether Lampitt, 35, knew the extent of the problems that Portsmouth face when he agreed to join earlier this month. He has taken charge of a number of FA investigations, including one into the agent Willie McKay. McKay was cleared of any wrongdoing and now, according to the Portsmouth creditors list, is owed £225,000 by the club.

The FA announced yesterday in conjunction with the Premier League that it will not support any late application by Portsmouth for a Uefa licence, which means that the club will not be able to play in the Europa League. Privately both are despairing that Portsmouth missed the deadline in the first place. The club's debts also mean it would be unlikely to qualify under Uefa rules.

The FA refused to comment yesterday on what part of the 70-page report into Portsmouth's debts it would be focussing on. The saga around the £1m owed to Tottenham for Asmir Begovic – despite the fact that the keeper was never registered to Spurs – would be an obvious place to start but Spurs have had no indication yet that the FA wants the paperwork for that case.

Spurs yesterday defended themselves against allegations of wrongdoing. They claimed that the £1m owed to them was a reimbursement after they paid a total combined fee to Portsmouth for Younes Kaboul and Begovic – thought to be around £8m – and Begovic refused to join the London club. He eventually signed for Stoke City.

A spokesman for Spurs said: "In order to assist Portsmouth with their financial difficulties we paid [them] an agreed sum of money, whilst at the same time concluding an agreement that, should Begovic be sold or loaned to any club other than ourselves, we would be repaid the sum of £1m."

To add confusion, Stoke's chairman Peter Coates said that his club paid £3m for Begovic – which raised questions over why Spurs valued him at just £1m of the entire deal and could yet catch the eye of the FA financial regulations team.

After Portsmouth were denied their place in the Europa League next season, which they have qualified for by reaching the FA Cup final, Andronikou launched an attack on the Premier League and the FA, accusing them of failing to support the club.

He said: "We are very disappointed all round. We will go to Uefa and explore every avenue before we admit defeat. We are still a member of the Premier League for a few more weeks at least and they should be championing us. I think it's quite a shambles. There are rules and regulations but there is also football protocol and the way they have approached this subject means they must have made a significant U-turn in the last 24 hours."