Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Portsmouth 17 – Southampton 5

Posted by John Beech on April 9, 2009

That’s annual losses in millions of pounds, not goals.

These two teams constitute the nearest the South Coast can offer to Glasgow’s Old Firm – bitter rivals on the pitch and a distinct animosity between their fans. In some respects, like Celtic and Rangers, they are oddly similar – perhaps the cause of the rivalry. They have both employed Harry Redknapp and Alan Ball as their manager, and have both fielded England international Peter Crouch and ambivalent international Nigel Quashie .

The rivalry has been more off the pitch than on. Portsmouth’s heyday was the years on either side of World War II, but they suffered relegation in 1959, only returning to stay in the top flight in 2003 (there was single season there in the late eighties). The intervening years had been ones of mixed fortune, and they included a spell in the old Division 4.

Southampton, on the other hand, only achieved top flight status in 1966, where they remained until 2005 apart from the years form the years 1974 to 1978.

I should, at this point, declare an interest: in my youth I stood on the terraces at Fratton Park, in the later years of Jimmy Dickinson, still a consumate player. While I still follow their results every Saturday, my interests today lie far more in the Board Room, as they do at Southampton. Southampton’s current predicament does not fill me with glee, which is untypical as a Pompey fan – rather, I think ‘There but for the grace of God go Pompey’.

While Southampton’s parent company has just been placed in Administration (see postings of 1 April and 3 April), with the publication of the current level if indebtedness, Portsmouth’s financial results were declared yesterday, which makes a good starting point for a comparison.

Portsmouth (1)

Annual losses: £16.66m for year ending 2007/08

Annual turnover: £70m

Main debts: Loans outstanding of £44m with Standard Bank and Barclays Bank.

Southampton (2)

Annual losses: £4.9m, despite a £12.7m profit on disposal of players’ registrations, in year to 30 June 2008.

Annual turnover: £14.9m

Main debts: £27.5m (liabilities of £23.1m [mainly to for cost of stadium, and overdarft of £4.4m)

The differences between their current league positions and financial situationscan be attributed to three main causes:

  1. Relative stability off the pitch
    Portsmouth have not suffered from the level of board room politics that has dogged Southampton in recent years. Both, however, have been as profligate in hiring and firing of managers as you would expect from any club that isn’t Crewe Alexandra, Manchester United or Arsenal.
  2. Fairy godfathers
    (I’m loathe to use the term ‘benefactor’ because of its moralistic connotation). Portsmouth has had significant financial backing through ownership by first Milan Mandaric, who rescued the club from Administration, and then by Gaydamak père et/ou fils depending on your persuasion. Rupert Lowe et al. have not been in the same league in terms of financial clout.
  3. Stadiums
    While Portsmouth have been producing plans for a new stadium in at least four different locations since at least the 1970’s, they have never actually got round to building it and taking on the debt it would involve.

Portsmouth can’t keep putting off the stadium issue. Lack of capacity is constraining their matchday revenues, but the latest thoughts – to rebuild with larger stands – finally show some financial realism.

Mind you, Fratton Park has not been the same since the Milton End was sorted for the 2007/08 season, and away fans were given the luxury of a roof!


One Response to “Portsmouth 17 – Southampton 5”

  1. […] Posted by John Beech on June 5, 2009 Back in April I commented on some of the similarities and differences between these two South Coast rivals (1). […]

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