• Premier League

Storrie reveals Pompey's massive £131m wage bill

Soccernet staff
February 22, 2010
Peter Storrie is working on striking a deal to secure Portsmouth's future © Getty Images

Peter Storrie has blown wide open the inside story of where the money has gone at Portsmouth, with Soccernet able to reveal that £131 million has been paid to the players in wages over the past three years.

The under siege Pompey chief executive is angry that insinuations are flying around that the club's cash has been misappropriated in some way.

Soccernet can now reveal that the players have taken the biggest chunk of the money, the banks have recalled £40 million of loans and the rest has gone in transfer fees. All the figures have been declared to the courts and to the potential South African buyers, with a deal anticipated in the next 48 hours to try to save the club from oblivion.

Storrie gave a frank and revealing interview in light of veiled allegations that something untoward has occurred at Fratton Park, with fans demanding to know there the money has gone and TV coverage over the weekend raising questions of what has happened to the money generated by a club that won the FA Cup two years ago.

Storrie said: "If you want to know where the money has gone, look at the accounts. It's no secret, we've had the report submitted to the courts, and we have presented these accountants to prospective new owners. It's there for all to see.

"The bulk of the money has gone to the players in wages. The cost of the players' wages this year is £37 million. Last season, when it was running at its height, it was £52 million, and the year before it was £42 million. The vast majority of the money over the last two to three years has gone on players' wages, and also on their transfer fees.

"It's all very well for Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson to look perplexed about where the money has gone by showing a chart of the players we've bought and looking at that £75 million and adding that to £70 million of debt and asking 'where's the £150 million gone?'

"In that period we bought £50 million-plus worth of players and paid out their salaries. The list showed one player sold for £18 million, but they never took off the £4 million sell-on fee to Arsenal or the fact that we paid £4 million for him, so in reality we were paid £10 million not the £18 million shown, and that is just one example.

"It is all so misleading and it leads to one thing: animosity from the supporters who keep asking us where the money has gone. So, it's time they were told. It's gone on the players' wages, on their transfer fees and the bank recalling their loans. That is why we have been forced to keep on selling players over the last 15 months - to keep this club alive."

Portsmouth's highest earner is David James, who is paid £50,000 a week. Apart from the England goalkeeper few players earn a similar salary as so many of the big earners have now been sold off. John Utaka has been widely reported as earning £80,000 a week, but Storrie made a point of telling Soccernet last week that the real figure is about a third of that. He does, however, boost his earnings with bonus payments.

Storrie also poses an interesting question for all those clubs currently running on much larger debts than Portsmouth, with his club having been declared insolvent by their own accountants' report to the courts.

Storrie says: "Yes, we have enormous debts. But don't some other Premier League clubs? Aren't their debts much bigger, in some cases, than ours? The biggest debts are to owners, and they are not calling in their loans.

"When you look at Chelsea, for example, their owner Roman Abramovich wrote off all their massive debts, wrote it all off, and that says it all."

The TV analysts over the weekend also posed the question of why South Africans, or anyone else for that matter, would want to take over a club in such financial turmoil. Storrie has a simple answer to that: "I am fed up with everyone highlighting the debts without ever bothering to look at the assets of this football club.

"The assets of this club are its players, their value in the transfer market, and there are some players whom we would value very highly. There is then the potential for 100,000 square foot of supermarket. You can imagine what that would be worth."

It has long been suspected that Portsmouth has attracted so many investors because of the lucrative real estate. For now the big battle is over the survival of the very club itself, rather than the potential further down the line to build a new stadium, cash in on the supermarket and realise the huge profits.

For now it's a tightening of belts, as Storrie added: "We are continuing to cut our overheads dramatically and that means the wage bill. There will be a lot more players out of contract at the end of the season and that will be our opportunity to cut the wage bill to make it more realistic to operate within a 20,000 stadium, until such time that we can move on.

"In the past the owners have funded the difference between the income from our limited stadium and the huge wage bill, but once that stopped, when Sasha [Gaydamak] sold, is when the trouble started."

D-day is March 1 and time is running out as Storrie said: "It's going to be a hectic few days. I am heavily in discussions and not been off the phone all day again. The next couple of days could prove crucial, it's going to be a very busy next 48 hours."

As a detailed accountants' report has been lodged with the courts, due diligence for a new owner can be shortened, and the lawyers are trying to fast-track the fourth takeover of the season. The South African consortium, spearheaded by a sports-orientated investor, has lodged proof of finances with the lawyers and will, on Monday, lodge those proof of funds with the banks.

Storrie concluded: "Yes, I am hopeful. the club has no price, but the new owners will take over the debts and will be going into this aware of all the financial facts. They will have to come to some kind of arrangement with the Revenue, it will be up to them to reach agreement with the Revenue."

If that fails on Monday, March 1, then Portsmouth's best option to stay alive would be administration and the faintest of hope Avram Grant has of staying in the Premier League will disappear.

The argument is growing that with chances of survival on the pitch almost over, administration is the sensible solution. The Premier League will want to avoid that scenario, but are rapidly running out of options to save them.

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