Rob Hughes writes that, "If England’s Premier League is the barometer of financial health at the top of the international sport, then soccer in 2010 is living a lie like some of the world banks up to 2009." Manchester United is saddled with debt, Chelsea is totally beholden to its Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, who says he seeks no return — other than trophies — for the $1 billion he has provided the club. But the real story of English soccer is Portsmouth.
Portsmouth has been around since 1898, but it was declared insolvent by a court registrar last week. It owes more than almost $19 million, to the British treasury, and many millions more to its players and to the clubs it purchased them from. The creditors, especially the government, threaten to close Portsmouth within a month. This would destroy two competitions because not only is Pompey a member of the 20-team Premier League, it also reached the quarterfinals of the FA Cup over the weekend.
Two years ago, Portsmouth won the FA Cup, but Pompey’s owner then, Alexandre Gaydamak, the son of the Russian Arcadi Gaydamak, overcommitted the club in pursuit of more success. His team manager, Harry Redknapp, persuaded Gaydamak to spend like there was never a tomorrow. Redknapp has found another team to manage, Tottenham Hotspur. Gaydamak tried to sell, to dubious buyers who have come and gone. The creditors, including Gaydamak, are in the courts for millions that Portsmouth cannot repay. The fear is that English soccer is a pack of cards waiting to tumble if one big club goes bust.