Premier League - Portsmouth given a week

Eurosport - Wed, 10 Feb 17:16:00 2010

Portsmouth's 112-year existence has been extended for at least another week after the High Court adjourned their winding up order.

FOOTBALL Portsmouth's Fratton Park stadium front - 0

The Premier League's bottom side had been brought to court by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill worth £11.5 million, comprising a VAT bill of £7.4m which it is disputing with HMRC and £4.7m in unpaid PAYE and National Insurance, the latter of which is not part of today's petition.

Portsmouth avoided administration or outright liquidation after claiming that they had received at least two "serious offers" to buy the club.

Representing HMRC, Gregory Mitchell QC said: "It is quite clear beyond any doubt at all that this company is insolvent. They have failed to provide any evidence at all as to their solvency. There are many debts and they are unpaid."

Court registrar Christine Derrett said: "I am very concerned about the financial status of this company. It seems to me there's a very real risk that this company is undoubtedly trading while it is insolvent.

"I am obviously conscious that by making a winding-up order it would have very severe consequences not only for the company as a business but for the supporters themselves but that is not a consideration that I strictly take into account."

Chief executive Peter Storrie said he was confident the club would survive, telling Sky Sports: "It's still a very serious situation and we've got a lot of work to do but we have a bit more time to prove to the court that we are viable, we can go forward and we've got potential buyers. They are (serious) and also you never know also who might come out of the blue in the next day or two.

"Sometimes it does happen overnight with a surprise name, someone you haven't dealt with before, but certainly the two parties I've been speaking to do seem to have an interest.

"It has been a pretty tough time since the November before last but here we are 15 months down the line, and we are still here and still going.

"There have been some pretty fraught times but we want to do what is best for the fans and keep the club going. So yes, I'm hopeful we can continue that and still be here completing the season and hopefully staying up."

The severity of the club's situation is illustrated by the fact that Championship club Cardiff City and League One side Southend United, who both also had winding up hearing on Wednesday, were given 28 days to settle their affairs, the length of time Portsmouth had also been hoping to receive.

Although Portsmouth have been given just seven days in which to provide a satisfactory statement of affairs to the court, the next available date for them to return to the High Court is Friday February 19.

If the club cannot then convince the court that they will be able to function as a viable business then they will be put into administration or, more likely, wound up completely. In either event, they will be first club in the Premier League to suffer such a fate.

Storrie had been locked in discussions on Tuesday night at Fratton Park - as the team scraped a 1-1 draw with Sunderland - with representatives from HMRC over paying a portion of the money Pompey owe, before talks broke down.

League Two club Notts County were given an extension last month which allowed them time to look for new investors, which is the position Pompey are also in.

Balram Chainrai took charge last week when Ali Al Faraj defaulted payments on a loan, but the businessman is not interested in owning the club in the long term.

Portsmouth, who can now look forward to playing bitter local rivals Southampton in Saturday's FA Cup fifth round tie at St Mary's, have endured one of their most torrid season's in recent memory. They are five points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League and have had to sell many of their most valuable players in order to try and fight the tide of increasing debt.

This term alone they have had set a Premier League record for the worst start to a season, had a transfer embargo placed upon them by the Premier League and have failed to play their players and staff wages on four occasions.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account