Over the weekend, this site reported that League One side Portsmouth were beginning to ring alarm bells regarding the club's short term future. Still in administration, and without a firm commitment towards the CVA that was agreed on June 25th, they are in reality only marginally further down the line from when that provisional agreement was put into place.
Monday 23rd July was the 28 day mark at which the CVA would normally be allowed to proceed and be signed off, but with prospective owner Balram Chainrai (via his Portpin company) and the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, who are waiting in the wings, both insisting that their player wage bill be brought down from its current £8 million level, neither of them were likely to take the keys to the ground yesterday.
Tonight, Portsmouth administrator Trevor Birch has set a firm deadline of Friday 10th August as the date by which he will pull the plug on the club if the current issues preventing them from exiting administration are not resolved. If they are still without a firm buyer at that stage, then Portsmouth Football Club will cease to trade, and any possibility of football being played at Fratton Park will disappear, for at least twelve months.
The significance of the date chosen is fairly calculated. At present, Portsmouth do not have enough players registered with the Football League to stage a match. However, for the footballing authorities to remove their transfer embargo, they will need to commit to new owners, which still means shifting their high earners off their books. That all needs to happen before the season commences, with Portsmouth currently scheduled to play Plymouth Argyle in a League Cup match on Tuesday 14th August. Allow a day or so for player registrations to be transferred, and thus the preceding Friday becomes the deadline.
Birch does not mince his words. He has said tonight that he has "no alternative" after that date and says the goal is rather simple:
"The facts are straightforward: the players have to leave and conclude compromise settlements."
Today they have made one small step in that direction by getting Luke Varney to move to Leeds United, whilst they also hope that David Norris can secure a similar move to either Sheffield Wednesday or Leeds.
However, Erik Huseklepp, Greg Halford, Liam Lawrence, Kanu, Tal Ben Haim and Dave Kitson are all understood to be players that Pompey need to lose off their payroll if they are to avoid having the lights entirely turned off before the start of the 2012-13 season.
At this late stage, Pompey's demise would result in League One playing with just 23 clubs, meaning that one team would face a blank Saturday every weekend, according to the current fixture list. Any rebalancing of the numbers in the Football League would then be done during the summer of 2013, resulting in only three relegation slots out of League One. If Pompey do survive, then they will almost certainly have to accept a ten point penalty for failing to comply with the conditions of their 2010 CVA, although that should be the least of their worries at present.
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