By Nick Harris
18 February 2010
Portsmouth’s application today for dispensation to sell players outside the transfer window appears likely to succeed, sportingintelligence understands. The troubled Premier League club, which has debts of £60m and faces the imminent prospect of administration, asked the League for permission to sell players to stave off threat of extinction. If Pompey can offload some stars before their High Court winding-up date on 1 March, they may be spared liquidation.
The rationale is that they would not only earn some cash to pay back creditors including HMRC (the tax man is owed almost £12m), but reduce the massive wage bill that led to the current woes, and hence become attractive to potential buyers. Premier League officials spent this afternoon in talks with the Football Association and Fifa, football’s world governing body, trying to decide whether to allow Portsmouth to sell players. The call is ultimately Fifa’s, and is fraught with legal complexities, but the early signs are that Pompey will be allowed to sell.
If Pompey wanted to sell players merely to avoid administration – and that anyway seems a likely fate – they would face fierce opposition from other clubs. West Ham’s new co-owner David Gold told sportingintelligence this evening that if allowing Portsmouth to sell players is proven to be the club’s “last resort” for survival then it is a matter “that should be considered, and voted on”, by the Premier League clubs.
Gold says: “We have no duty to assist Portsmouth’s owners or chief executive [Peter Storrie], who played their part on the current situation, but I feel sympathy for the fans and for that reason we should consider helping. But if this measure is being considered simply as a means of helping Portsmouth to avoid administration then I wouldn’t support it at all. I don’t have sympathy for a badly run club that faces administration. We’re in a league that operates on survival of the fittest. Nobody offered to help Crystal Palace recently or so many others over the years in this way to stay out of administration.
“Above all else we need to protect the integrity of our league, and allowing Portsmouth to sell their players outside the normal window in a way that other clubs are not allowed to do isn’t protecting that integrity. The issue isn’t about preventing Portsmouth raising money. I would have no problem, for example, if they were allowed to pre-sell players on the understanding they couldn’t play in the league until after the next transfer window. I do have a problem with a club being able to buy those players and gain an advantage over a competitor. I wouldn’t want a competitor buying a player not usually available to them to help them stay up, and neither would my club’s rivals want West Ham doing that. A principle needs upholding.”