Portsmouth will make a late application for permission to play in Europe next season but their chances of success are slim at best, and hinge on emerging from administration imminently, an outcome nobody at the club expects.
The ongoing financial saga at Fratton Park is being watched keenly by other Premier League clubs, especially Aston Villa, because Portsmouth's participation – or not – in Europe next season will impact on whether others get to taste European action.
Under normal circumstances, Pompey would be on course for a place in next season's Europa League. The Premier League's top-four finishers win entry to the Champions League, the fifth-placed club goes into the Europa League, and so does the winner of the FA Cup, unless that club has already qualified, in which case it goes to the runners-up.
A third Europa League place is up for grabs this season because the Carling Cup winners are awarded one, and Manchester United won it and won't use it. Unlike in the FA Cup, that place doesn't go to the runners-up (Aston Villa) in 2010, but rather to the next best-placed team in the Premier League.
This year, Chelsea – Portsmouth's opponents in next month's FA Cup final – are already certain to qualify for next season's Champions League. That means Pompey, as FA Cup runners-up at worst, should get that berth in Europe.
The complicating factor is that to play in Europe clubs must hold a Uefa licence, and Pompey do not have one because of their parlous financial state. The deadline to get one was in March (when Pompey were already in administration), and while a late application could theoretically pay dividends, Portsmouth would need to demonstrate to Uefa they are a going concern before being granted a licence.
As things stand, the top four in the Premier League (Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Manchester City) will play in next season's Champions League, while the clubs in fifth, sixth and seventh (Tottenham, Liverpool and Villa) will play in the Europa League. But if Pompey were able to exit administration quickly, and be granted a Uefa licence as an extraordinary case, they would get a European place, and Villa would miss out.
But as even Portsmouth administrator, Andrew Andronikou, admits, it is a "long shot" hope for Pompey. He told The Independent last night that the search for new owners is "moving along" but is not close to completion. "It will be an uphill struggle in terms of making [a successful] appeal but nonetheless we will try," he added.
Andronikou revealed that Portsmouth are certain to make at least £2.2m profit for reaching the FA Cup final, which they did thanks to Sunday's 2-0 extra-time semi-final win over Tottenham. "The club makes £450,000 from the FA in prize money for winning the semi, and is guaranteed £900,000 more from the final, that's the runners-up cash if Portsmouth lost," he said. "So that's £1.35m, and then there will be £600,000 to £800,000 on top from commercial income, including sponsors' bonuses kicking in, and when you add merchandising and other bits, we think reaching the final will make £2.2m, and that would rise to £3.2m if Portsmouth won the Cup."
On the other hand, all of Portsmouth's players have bonus payments in their contracts related to reaching or winning the Cup, including six players who would trigger payments of between £50,000 and £100,000 merely by starting the Cup final. "All the players have incentivised contracts, not just some," Andronikou says. "Nothing is standardised, that's part of the problem."
Andronikou says the club, in consultation with manager Avram Grant, must also make careful team selection decisions from now on, because certain players are close to reaching appearance targets that would trigger payments to other clubs. Foremost among those is Aruna Dindane; the Ivorian striker has made 21 appearances in all competitions this season on loan from Lens, and a 22nd would trigger a £4m payment to the French club.
The race for seventh place begins
The Europa League place reserved for the FA Cup winners will be handed to seventh in the league this season as Chelsea will qualify for the Champions League and fellow finalists Portsmouth do not hold the necessary Uefa licence.
There is a possibility of four teams playing in next season's competition if Liverpool or Fulham win the tournament but do not qualify through their league placing. In this case an additional place would be granted for either Fulham or Liverpool to defend the trophy.
5. Spurs 32/17/7/8/26/58
6. Liverpool 34/16/8/10/21/56
7. Aston Villa 32/14/12/6/12/54
8. Everton 33/13/11/9/8/50
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