Pompey creditors furious at phantom fee owed to Spurs

Begovic deal leaves stricken club owing £1m – but goalkeeper has never been registered with Tottenham
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Portsmouth's creditors expressed anger yesterday over an outstanding transfer fee of £1m owed to Tottenham for a player who has never been on Spurs' books.

The extraordinary payment features in the breakdown of Portsmouth's £105m debts, as revealed in The Independent yesterday, which have been published by the club's administrators. They include debts of more than £9.7m to 24 football agents; £17.3m in unpaid transfer fees to clubs and £1.86m in unpaid wages and bonuses to players.

Among those transfer fees due from Portsmouth is £1m payable to Spurs for the former Pompey goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who has never been registered as a Tottenham player. The report by the club's administrator Andrew Andronikou claims that Portsmouth owe a £1m "sell-on fee" to Tottenham for the player who was transferred by Portsmouth to Stoke City in January.

Among the £4.4m of trade creditors – including everything from local taxi companies to builders, flag-makers and a Guernsey scout troop – there was anger that Portsmouth could find themselves liable for a player who had never played for Spurs. The local builder Terry Clark, whose company are owed more than £54,000 said that it was "absolutely shocking" that the club owed money for Begovic.

The explanation from sources at Tottenham was that Portsmouth agreed a total fee of around £8m in January for Younes Kaboul and Begovic combined – although no specific fee was ever ascribed to either player. When Begovic refused to join Spurs the club paid the full sum to Portsmouth nonetheless and then claimed back £1m for not having signed the goalkeeper.

Other creditors named in the 70-page report said they had been paid in full. One of the agents listed as being owed money by the club – who asked not to be identified – said that his six-figure debt had already been settled. The providers of the club's team bus also said that their outstanding debts – listed as £1,400 – had been paid in full. David Pitter, the managing director of Coliseum Coaches, said that a club employee had paid on her credit card.

Andronikou said yesterday that the debts were by no means definitive but that the key bulk – around £80m – to former owners such as Alexandre Gaydamak, other Premier League clubs, players and agents, was broadly correct. He added that the debts are from the club's records up to when they went into administration in February which have not been updated since.

"All creditors are required to fill out a form to give proof of the debt," Andronikou said. "Some say that it is more, some say it is less but if the local builder has already been paid his £200 it is not going to make much difference to the big picture – trade debts are around £4.4m of the total. We have not artificially inflated the debts. People need to get the whole situation in perspective."

The club's accounts reveal that their pre-tax loss jumped from £912,397 in 2006 to £23.4m in 2007 as they began the spending that would build the FA Cup-winning team of 2008. The following two years' accounts showed losses of £16.8m and £13.4m. Portsmouth's wage bill – the majority of which is player wages – peaked at £65m in 2009's accounts, which was a very unhealthy 109 per cent of their revenue.

Andronikou's report said that at the height of their spending under Gaydamak, the club employed 375 staff. His business plan involved a £12 to £15m investment every year for five years with "exceptional" player signings to be on top of that. When the global financial crisis bit in September 2008 he was forced to pay back loans to Standard Bank and the club's flimsy foundations were exposed.

The Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said yesterday that the plight of Portsmouth, and the hundreds of small companies whose debts had been left unpaid was not the fault of his organisation but bad management by the club.

Scudamore said that it would be "absolutely crazy" for the Premier League to bail out Portsmouth. He said: "If you start the season knowing you're going to get between £30m and £50m as a starter from the Premier League, through the year, it is entirely possible to get yourself organised so you don't get into the difficulties that Portsmouth got into.

"You cannot link the distribution of income to Portsmouth's woes. I'm on record as saying in January that if a club, whilst in the Premier League, went into administration it would be down to bad management at the club. And it is."

Portsmouth's creditors are expected to be offered by Andronikou between 20p to 23p in the pound for their debts at a meeting on 6 May.

As revealed by The Independent yesterday, aside from the money owed for Begovic, Tottenham are still waiting for £4.5m following the sale of midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and the loan deal for Jamie O'Hara last August.

How the creditors feel

Pini Zahavi – football agent

Work on transfers. Owed £2.074m

"What can I do? Whatever I get I will have to say 'thank you'. I hope that I will get as much as possible. I have been owed it for many years – a long time. They just postpone and delay payment. It's for transfers – many of them."

Focus Rigging & Scaffolding

Rigs for TV equipment. Owed £2,404

Andy McMahon, managing director: "I lost the equivalent of three men's wages for a job. They asked me because I was at the ground working for the TV companies; they must have known they didn't have much money then."

Carpet & General Cleaning

Office cleaning. Owed £793

Mike Aldridge, director: "I suppose it could be worse. I'm a fan and live five minutes from the ground. I think there are companies worse off than us. I heard the players will get paid in full – obviously they need the money more than we do!"

Terry Clark – local builder

Stadium improvements. Owed £54,778

"I'm disgusted that it is the genuine people kicked in the teeth again. They asked me to do the work on a new drugs testing room at Fratton Park because I'm a big fan of the club. It was an eight-week job but we did it in three."

TJ Transport – Hampshire

Waste disposal. Owed £12,078

Matt Bowles, commercial manager: "Since the club's problems we haven't had any answers. At the moment we are being asked to work on good will. The contract was very prestigious but it has become a millstone for us."

Guernsey Scouts Association

Provision of training facilities. Owed £697

Anne Wilkes-Green, administrator: "The local Guernsey under-sevens used our hall. Portsmouth FC were meant to pick up the bill but they haven't, so the Guernsey FA have stepped in and paid it."

Interviews by Sam Wallace

Portsmouth's creditors

Wages owed to players

£338,400 Owed to Sylvain Distin (left Portsmouth in August 2009)

£282,000 Peter Crouch (left July 2009)

£265,080 Glen Johnson (left June 2009)

£263,952 David James (still at club)

£122,670 Hayden Mullins (still at club)

£84,600 Papa Bouba Diop (still at club)

£84,600 Hermann Hreidarsson (still at club)

£84,600 Jamie O'Hara (still on loan at club)

£1.86m Total wages owed to players

Fees owed to agents

£2.07m Owed to Pini Zahavi, the hugely influential Israeli agent

£365,000 Stellar, a respected agency which represented Peter Crouch when he signed in August 2008 and Glen Johnson when he signed in August 2007

£9.76m Total owed to football agents

Fees owed to clubs

£4.5m Owed to Tottenham from the signing of Kevin-Prince Boateng and the loan deal for Jamie O'Hara (both August 2009)

£3.3m Italian club Udinese for the signing of Sulley Muntari (July 2007)

£2.54m French club Rennes for the signing of John Utaka (July 2007)

£2.4m Watford for signing of Tommy Smith (August 2009) and Mike Williamson (September 2009)

£1.8m Lens for the signing of Nadir Belhadj (January 2009)

£1.02m Chelsea for the signing of Glen Johnson (August 2007)

£17.3m Total owed to clubs for unsettled transfer and loan deals

Selected others

£38m Total owed on loans from previous club owners Alexandre Gaydamak, Sulaiman al-Fahim and Ali al-Faraj

£17m Owed to HMRC in unpaid tax

£5m Non-football debts owed largely to local suppliers

£3.04m Total owed to players in unpaid image rights