Rob Parrish looks at the sorry state of affairs which has seen Portsmouth pushed to the precipice.
Last Updated: 05/03/12 1:23pm
Portsmouth are facing not just a bleak future, but the very real threat that the club could go out of existence due to a sustained period of financial mismanagement which should leave all those associated hanging their heads in shame.
Having been plunged into administration last month for the second time in two years, Pompey have been docked 10 points by the Football League and are now five points from safety in the Championship, with only goal difference keeping them off the foot of the table.
Relegation to League One now looks to be on the cards, but that fate would arguably be accepted by supporters of the South Coast club if it means they can avoid the prospect of being liquidated and failing to fulfil their remaining 13 fixtures of the season.
Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote an article looking at what had gone wrong for the Fratton Park side as they became the first Premier League side to enter administration, and what lessons could be learned from their plight. None, would appear to be the answer.
Fast-forward to the present day, and the situation is just as grave, with many of the key protagonists in the club's ownership saga still involved, and Trevor Birch now playing the role previously held by Andrew Andronikou. He will be the man who either locates a saviour, or is tasked with pulling the plug on the life-support machine.
Integrity under threat
Birch delivered the news last week that one anticipated and significant revenue stream - parachute payments following Portsmouth's relegation from the Premier League - had already been assigned to previous owner Sacha Gaydamak by one of those who took charge in the intervening period.
Sulaiman al-Fahim, Ali al-Faraj and Balu Chainrai all spent spells at the helm following Gaydamak's departure, before Vladimir Antonov's Convers Sports Initiatives were confirmed as the new owners in the summer. But it was just the latest false dawn, with CSI entering administration in November and Antonov resigning his role.
The time has already come and gone for football's governing bodies of both the Premier League and Football League to accept their share of responsibility for some of the questionable figures to have been allowed to assume control of clubs in recent years.
On top of the concern that cornerstones of communities are being placed under threat as clubs with over a century of history are taken to the brink, there is the fact that the integrity of the competition is being placed under significant threat.
Should Portsmouth cease to exist, their results this season would be expunged from the record books, which would see Southampton's current one-point cushion over West Ham increased to six, with the Hammers dropping to third in the table behind Reading as they have had what could be the misfortune to claim victories in both their meetings with Pompey.
The prospect of salvation for Portsmouth - albeit temporary - has emerged on the horizon with Chainrai telling Sky Sports News HD earlier this week that he would be prepared to step back into the breach if it meant the club would not be liquidated.
But not all Portsmouth fans have welcomed this possible lifeline, with some believing that their latest white knight is more interested in attempting to recoup funds he is owed from his time in charge, with Chainrai himself admitting that his return would be 'very reluctant again' and describing himself as an 'accidental owner'.
Administrator Birch has significant experience in football finance, having worked as chief executive at Chelsea, where he was involved in Roman Abramovich's takeover of the Stamford Bridge club, before further spells with Leeds, Everton, Derby and Sheffield United.
But of all the roles the former footballer has taken on, few can have proved to be as convoluted, frustrating and draining as attempting to unravel the mess of the Pompey boardroom, during which time redundancies have followed, key players have been sold and the remainder are working on reduced wages, which they may never receive.
It would be utterly improbable to expect Birch to be able to locate another Russian oligarch, but the least Portsmouth's beleaguered fans can dream of is a new owner who simply has the best interests of the football club at heart and who can wipe away the misery and heartache from the downward spiral which followed one of the highest points in their history - lifting the FA Cup in 2008.