SJ MASKELL: Is there really a profit in Pompey Vladimir?
By SJ Maskell
Thursday 12 May 2011 09:23:00
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Monday’s News brought us the surprising report that Vladimir Antonov is planning to buy Pompey to make a profit. The hollow laughter that echoed around Portsea Island and surrounding areas on reading that may just about have subsided by now. In the current climate in English football in general, never mind the particular situation at Pompey, this belief could be construed as naïve at best.

Thursday’s News, that added the caveat that ‘there are some commercial points still to agree,’ re-emphasises that this deal is about potential profit, not sporting endeavour.

Whilst fans gear themselves for another summer of uncertainty awaiting the outcome of take-over talks, nicely fanned by media bites, it might be worth asking if there really is any profit in Pompey.

Antonov’s idea that there is a bonus  £90m to be gained from promotion to the Premier League seems to be based on figures garnered at the time of last year’s play-off final. The money comprises the total of TV, sponsorship, gate receipts and potential parachute payments (if relegated) acquired over the season. Not exact figures then.

To achieve this Antonov’s  plans include investment in the squad and the stadium, ‘but they will not be sky-high,’ he is reported to have said. So forget buying Messi and developing Horsea, then? So far he has neglected to explain the payment of the CVA in his plans, including the bonus payments to creditors if Pompey get promoted, as he appears to be assuming he will acquire the club debt free. The only way that can happen, surely, is if he pays enough for the club to clear the CVA and pay off Mr Chainrai? Oh, and acquires Sacha Gaydamak’s land. No wonder it’s taking a long time.

Is anyone else worried yet? Article continues here


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Many people have no issue with businessmen planning to make a profit from running a football club. The main problem being, as was highlighted even by the simplistic analysis of Alan Sugar this week, the way English football is run does not lend itself particularly well to making that profit. Liverpool have proved that one. West Ham are about to. Outside the highly branded ManU and financially doped Man City and Chelsea the whole financial situation at any club appears to be a fine juggling act between a multiplicity of variables, with results on the pitch frequently having a massive impact. Ask those that lost Champions’ League status recently. This makes investing in football a risky venture. The only way to avoid the risk is to tie up investment as loans to the club.

Pompey has already suffered from attempts at financial doping (Sacha’s initial approach before he needed his money out) and the investment as loan model (as Mr Chainrai will testify).  Both have backfired spectacularly leaving Pompey with a minimal squad, a stadium requiring drastic development and a CVA with four years to run. Alleged conspiracy theories aside, Pompey has suffered from the ineptness of the management of the business side of the club for decades.

Anyone wanting a profit out of our situation will require deep pockets and a massive amount of patience. Ask Ken Bates, who has just failed to win the promotion prize starting from a higher step on the ladder financially. Leeds made a small profit this season through player trading, but have chosen to increase their season ticket prices next season to between £550 and £750. Chances are that the player trading contributed to losing out on the playoffs, demonstrating the delicacy of the balancing act between results and finances. Now  Bates relies on fan loyalty to pay those inflated prices to conserve his profits. Sound familiar?

Now is anyone worried?

The business model of English football is fatally flawed. The only one who seems acutely unaware of that fact is Richard Scudamore, whose squirming under the questioning of both Alan Sugar and the Government Enquiry into Football Governance really should have told him something was up. SOS Pompey certainly can not have left him in any doubt last year. We know the truth of it in Portsmouth. The short-termism of a push to return to the Premier League worries many. Yet somewhere, deep down, many fans still hope an owner will come along in the Dave Whelan mould and kindly give us our club back.

Unless McLoughlin, Knight and Crawford win the euro millions, it aint gonna happen.

It will take someone as special as those legends to do what is needed at Pompey. Someone who is interested in the club as a football club first and foremost, who understands the place of the club in the City and who understands the nature of the City itself. Someone who makes it clear that they have a long term interest in the future of the club and not a short term interest in the £90m pot at the end of the rainbow.

Nothing about the current deal being negotiated by Pompey’s current ‘don’t care’ owners with a group of people who just want to own a football club, any football club if reports are to be believed, for the money they can make out of it, adds up to a desire to deliver to Portsmouth the football club it needs and deserves.

There are alternatives. There are ways those that are most concerned, the fans, the City, the community can become involved in ownership of the club. It needs the will and determination of those who have most at stake to make the move though. It needs more than ‘a fan on the board.’ It needs interested parties to have ‘skin in the game.’ Current discussions in parliament are investigating ways this can be enabled.  At Pompey the club  is ripe for such a development. The question is – are the fans up for it?

My next article will look at how fan involvement could work...

SJ Maskell also writes for:
Twohundredpercent and Shoot!

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