Premier League ready to take control as 'penniless' Pompey crash

Extent of crisis at Fratton Park is revealed, while Notts County deny failing to pay staff
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The Independent Football

The Premier League is preparing to make Portsmouth the first club taken under control of the league's executive body after the club's chief executive, Peter Storrie, admitted yesterday that there was "no money left".

A secret transfer embargo was implemented on the club during the summer by the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, as they struggled to stay afloat while selling off their biggest names. The club's failure to pay players and staff on time this month has put the league on standby if the situation deteriorates.

Now, under rules introduced this month which allow the league to seize control of a club's finances, the Premier League is ready to take over at Portsmouth to stop them slipping into administration. No club in the Premier League has yet gone into administration and the board at Portsmouth, who have lost their first seven games this season, still hopes the situation can be rescued.

The club's new owner Sulaiman al-Fahim is chasing £50m of new investment which the club still hope will be forthcoming. However, they are under pressure to pay debts to staff and externally as well. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are understood to be major creditors and there is believed to be a debt of at least £3m owed to major football agents.

The developments at Fratton Park came as Notts County were forced to issue a denial yesterday that they failed to pay their players the full amount due last month. The Professional Footballers' Association was contacted when bonuses were not paid. The club say they have addressed the problem.

With Fahim yet to announce the advent of new backers at Portsmouth, Storrie said yesterday that the club was running on empty. "All the money from all the player transfers and the Sky TV money, all of the £35m from January, has gone straight to the Standard Bank," he said. "There is no money left.

"Whatever we spend on a monthly basis comes channelled through from the new owner. He has promised to re-finance, and he has shown me all the documentation, but I have no idea about the conditions of the £50m he says will be arriving in a few weeks.

"We need to refinance, it is as simple as that. As for the players' wages for last month, I would imagine it's a blip and they will be paid, but I have spent the last nine to 10 months fighting fires on a daily basis, I'm not giving up."

The club described the failure to pay the players as "very disappointing". A spokesman said: "It is through the joint efforts of the executive directors that we are in the final stages of securing funding that will allow the club to meet these contractual obligations.

"It is clear that, in order to ensure that the club is able to secure its longer-term future, a more permanent financing solution needs to be found quickly as the executive directors consider it an obligation to the club's loyal employees and fans, who undoubtedly feel equally disappointed.

"In order to achieve this we will continue to work closely with the owner's lawyers and associates in delivering the finance that is needed over the next 10 to 14 days. Ultimately the responsibility to deliver this remains with the owner."

At Meadow Lane, Notts County claimed last night that a new system of paying wages was the reason that their players' salaries were not paid in full for last month. Players at the club immediately contacted the PFA on Wednesday when their win bonuses were not included in September's pay packet.

Last night the executive chairman of Notts County, Peter Trembling, said that bonuses had simply been paid a day late because a new payment system meant that bonuses and salaries were now paid separately. "There is no issue. They have been paid and their salaries and bonuses are up to date," Trembling said. "We have implemented an automated process that wasn't here before. The players have no issue with it."

The edginess among players at Notts County exists because of doubts over the backers of Munto Finance, the investors who were given control of the club by a supporters' trust this year. Sol Campbell walked out on a £40,000-a-week, five-year contract at Meadow Lane last month because of doubts over the future of the club.

The chief executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, was contacted by players at Notts County on Wednesday and the union then made representations to the club. Taylor said: "This is the kind of job that the PFA does for all its members. We have to make sure the players get the money due on their contracts and in time too. That does happen at some clubs but you do not expect it, in Portsmouth's case, in the Premier League."

Pompey's fall: How financial troubles spiralled out of control

Summer 2007 Since rescuing a side seemingly destined for relegation when he returned to Fratton Park in December 2005, the next stage of Harry Redknapp's rebuilding kicks in with a vengeance. Pompey buy midfielder Sulley Muntari for £7m from Udinese, new England striker David Nugent from Preston for £6m, Glen Johnson (£4m), winger John Utaka (£7m) and defensive midfielder Papa Bouba Diop (undisclosed). The only significant sales are Gary O'Neil (£5m to Middlesbrough), while Redknapp adds further to the wage bill by snapping up Sylvain Distin and Herman Hreidarsson on free transfers.

Highlighting the sense of optimism at the club, plans for a new 36,000-capacity stadium at Horsea Island designed by world-renowned architects Herzog and De Meuron are unveiled.

31 January 2008 With Pompey challenging for a top six place in the Premier League, Redknapp, who turns down the Newcastle vacancy after Sam Allardyce is sacked, buys big again – midfielder Lassana Diarra is spirited away from Arsenal for £5.5m and Jermain Defoe arrives from Spurs on transfer-deadline day for £9m. Benjani (£3.8m, Man City) and Matthew Taylor (£5m, Bolton) go the other way.

17 May 2008 Redknapp's spending earns a rich dividend as Portsmouth win the FA Cup, beating Cardiff 1-0 at Wembley thanks to Kanu's goal. However, that means preparing for a Uefa Cup campaign and a bigger squad – Redknapp brings back Peter Crouch (£11m, Liverpool) to pair him up front with Defoe, while Younes Kaboul is brought in from Spurs (£6m) as cover for Sol Campbell. The sale of Muntari to Internazionale (£12.7m) helps balance the books.

25 October 2008 Redknapp walks out on Pompey to take over at Spurs. Assistant Tony Adams moves up to become manager and immediately has to deal with a new financial climate as debt levels at the club have risen dangerously high. After months of rumours, owner Alexandre Gaydamak also announces that he is ready to sell Portsmouth. In the winter transfer window the sale of Diarra (£20m, Real Madrid) and Defoe (£15m, following Redknapp to Spurs) brings in £35m but that is deemed not enough. Adams is allowed to buy Hayden Mullins for £1m from West Ham.

9 February 2009 Adams is sacked as Pompey, without a win in the Premier League since November, slide towards the relegation zone. Paul Hart is installed as caretaker and manages to stabilise things, securing a 14th-place finish.

19 March 2009 The new stadium plans at Horsea Island are shelved and a project to redevelop Fratton Park as a 30,000-capacity ground by 2011 is offered as an alternative.

Summer 2009 "For Sale" signs go up at Fratton Park, with the club and seemingly all the first-team squad on the market. Out go Johnson (£18m, Liverpool), Crouch (£9m, Spurs), while Lauren, Campbell, Sean Davis and Djimi Traoré are allowed to leave. With the transfer window days from closing and Sulaiman al-Fahim's takeover dragging on, Hart is down to 14 first-team players. Money is found to bring in a number of loans (Jamie O'Hara, Anthony Vanden Borre, Aruna Dindane), Championship players (Tommy Smith, Mike Williamson) and Redknapp's cast-offs at Spurs (Kevin-Prince Boateng). Pompey lose their first seven Premier League games and an air of crisis envelops the club

Saul Brookfield

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