The Premier League’s decision to allow Portsmouth to sell players to fellow top flight teams, announced on Wednesday, has set a precedent that will open up a whole plethora of complaints for clubs that feel Portsmouth are being treated with a grace that other clubs suffering – or who have suffered – administration, were not blessed with. In a statement, the Premier League said: “Players may be sold to other Premier League clubs but may not play first-team football for the new club before the end of the season. Players may be sold to a Football League or foreign club, subject to FIFA’s approval. Portsmouth FC may enter into an agreement with another Premier League, Football League or foreign club that a player will be transferred to that other club in the summer.”
How helpful a measure this will be is yet to be seen. Immediately after the statement, Portsmouth’s administrator, Andrew Andronikou told the Press: “This has given us an option, but we’re not necessarily going to sell players. At the moment we don’t necessarily need the money from sales. We’re looking forward to the FA Cup semi-final and that’s obviously given us working capital to play with.” Andronikou also pointed out – to appease fans worried about the structure of the team – that all players that are sold will be immediately loaned back to Portsmouth for the remainder of the season.
But the bigger question remains – does anybody actually want any Portsmouth players? As a prospective buyer, it is not an attractive business opportunity. Portsmouth are a club embroiled in financial scandal and any money being passed between them and another club is currently going to be high risk. Nadir Belhadj has been mooted as the favourite to leave but with Roma a touted destination, the potential transfer fee is not looking likely to even make a dent on Pompey’s debt. Of course, Portsmouth need all the money they can get but it would be a surprise if they could sell anyone right now. Marc Wilson, Kevin Prince-Boateng and John Utaka are all potential sales and could bring in around £6m, and some players on the periphery of the first team could also be sold to give the club some extra money.
Why anyone would buy a player at this stage of the season is a mystery. If one of the clauses was the transferred player would be able to join his new club immediately, this would have much more effect and resonance with Portsmouth’s cause but as it is, the decision seems like a futile measure designed to appease the administrators who have been haggling for such a move for nearly a month now. Spending money on a player in the knowledge that he will not be with you until the next season is a rare commodity and one that is reserved for clubs like Manchester United – famous exponents of such a transfer tactic, with Fulham’s Chris Smalling the latest case. Unfortunately for Portsmouth, United are unlikely to want any of their players and clubs are unlikely to spend money on a player they could get in the summer after really analysing his form.
The only plus point for prospective buyers is they have the upper hand in any possible deal – even though Andronikou has suggested the club do not need to sell anyone, money is in desperate need at the South Coast club and any offer of worthy distinction is likely to be accepted. For now, it remains to be seen whether this will have any impact on Portsmouth’s debts and whether anyone will be sold but the Premier League have made a bold decision and one they will hope shines a good light on them in the coming months.