THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 28 September ~

Two more clubs looking for buyers face one another this afternoon as Spurs visit Portsmouth. The latter haven't headlines as much as Newcastle or their opponents today but they have an equally turbulent start. They spent lavishly in the summer and look set to reach the UEFA Cup group stage in their first season in Europe. But they have conceded ten goals without reply in their last two matches, performances that sent manager Harry Redknapp almost speechless with fury, which, some would say, made a nice change.

This might have been the final fixture between the two clubs at Fratton Park had Portsmouth's new stadium proceeded according to plan. The new ground is slated to cost around £130 million; with a capacity of 36,000 it will be nearly 50 per cent bigger than dilapidated Fratton Park. Building work has been delayed, however, and now it has been suggested that it may not happen at all with the club edging towards a financial precipice.

The club is owned by Alexander Gaydamak, a French citizen whose Russian-born father Arcadi is resident in Israel from where a French court wants to extradite him as part of an investigation into international arms-dealing. Gaydamak, who has not been a regular attender of matches since acquiring control, has announced that he is seeking a buyer –at what sounds like a knockdown price of just £20m. But as a report in the News of the World reveals, the club are also hugely in debt with a massive 90 per of their turnover being spent on players' wages.

Gaydamak might seek to blame the general economic downturn, in that he has been able to fund his manager's lavish spending over the past couple of years by borrowing at rates that are no longer available. But as has been seen countless times in football over the past few years, the wanton piling up of debt will always lead to a meltdown. Clubs have been rescued from such predicaments, as happened at Chelsea, although they can never hope to repay the £500m that Roman Abramovich has pumped in. Colossal debts are never written off, just passed on to a new creditor. Wigan owner Dave Whelan is not alone in thinking that this process could soon lead to a bankruptcy in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Spurs’ owners ENIC are said to have been in talks with a "super-rich" investor from Asia who will be asked for up to £400m. The mystery purchaser likes Spurs because "they are based in London" and will not seemingly bother to pretend that he is a fan. If the best-known wealthy Spurs supporter, Mike Ashley, hadn't lost £380m in betting on HBOS share price during that company's crash two weeks ago he could have snapped them up. Lucky old Spurs.

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