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The Toe Poke

Portsmouth handed winding-up order

Crisis club Portsmouth have been issued with a winding-up petition by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over an unpaid tax bill.

"Ensuring tax is paid on time should be at the centre of a football club's business strategy just like any other business,'' said an HMRC spokesman. "Anyone that regards paying tax as an optional extra, or that uses tax collected from employees or customers as working capital, is potentially heading for trouble.

"While a winding-up order is a last resort, there is little HMRC can do for a business - be it a football club or not - whose viability is dependent either on not paying the UK taxes to which they are liable, or on special treatment not available to other customers with similar tax affairs.''

Parent company Convers Sports Initiatives entered administration in November and the club are looking for new investment. However, with Italian businessman Joseph Cala pulling out of a deal last week, there are fears for their future and chief-executive David Lampitt told BBC Radio Solent that Pompey had failed to meet two payments totalling £1.6 million (£800,000 in December and another of £800,000 due on January 20).

"This period, while we search for a new owner, was always going to be difficult from a cash flow point of view," Lampitt said on Saturday. "We are in a difficult position and will remain in a difficult position until the ownership is sorted.

"The club does not have the funding that would have been there if our previous owner had been in place. It has been a difficult two months to balance the financial position of the football club.

"We are in a difficult position and will remain in a difficult position until the ownership is sorted. For the time being, it is a matter between us and HMRC and we have to manage that as best we can."

Administrator Andrew Andronikou claimed last week that he hoped to finalise a deal with a new investor soon.

"We are concerned about the short term and are working very hard to secure a deal," he said. "Administration is not on the cards and it is the last thing we would consider. I can say that the club has not got significant debts, it has significant cash flow issues."

In a lengthy statement issued tonight, the club said the winding-up order was the result of the failure of owners CSI to provide promised funding.

''We knew that the club would not generate sufficient funds to support itself through [the period November to January],'' the statement said. ''However, when CSI, the club's parent company, went into administration we were given assurances by the Administrator of CSI and the charge-holders over CSI (Portpin Limited) that the club would be funded through this period until a new owner was found. This has not happened.

''One of the reasons for this is that the Administrator has not generated expected funds from the sale of other CSI businesses that might have assisted the club's position.''

The statement added that the situation may well result in player sales while new owners for the club are sought.

''The charge-holder over CSI may choose to fund the club for any current shortfall in order to protect the value of its financial position,'' the statement said. ''However, this appears uncertain/unlikely which means we may have to try to raise funds through player sales, although this is clearly not our preferred route.

''In addition we still have a significant number of parties interested in acquiring the club who are actively pursuing their respective interests. We therefore remain positive that a solution will be found before some of these difficult choices have to be made. As you can imagine this has been, and remains, a very difficult balance.''

The club also said they were still waiting to learn whether they might be docked points by the league after their owners went into administration, but warned the verdict could yet be delayed.

''The League are finalising their report on the club's position following the administration of CSI and we are expecting to receive the outcome shortly,'' the statement said. ''However, we understand that the League may delay their decision until the club's current ownership situation is closer to being resolved.''


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