Why cash-strapped Pompey are leagues apart from their League One rivals

Pompey administrator Trevor Birch. Picture: Sarah Standing (120580-7852)
Pompey administrator Trevor Birch. Picture: Sarah Standing (120580-7852)

Doncaster Rovers have already cleared the decks, the anticipated annual payroll has been slashed, purged and reduced to below £2m ahead of the new season.

It’s a scenario Trevor Birch can only envy.

Pompey may share the same division as Rovers next season – following the relegation of both clubs – yet their £9.5m wage bill is leagues apart.

That is the alarming situation the Blues are faced with as administrators desperately attempt to drive down their bloated player costs.

The club presently employ 11 senior professionals – players who collectively earn almost five times the budgets of many League One clubs like Doncaster.

Of course, Tal Ben Haim alone picks up a pay packet which eclipses Dean Saunders’ entire squad.

The summer exodus has been a trickle so far – with Jason Pearce, Joel Ward and Stephen Henderson sold.

While it has brought in around £1.5m in transfer fees, the exit of three of Pompey’s four lowest earners has done little to ease the huge wage bill.

At least the departures of out-of-contract trio Jamie Ashdown, Ricardo Rocha and Benjani dropped the salary by around £1.6m.

Benjani alone earned in the region of a staggering £15,000-a-week for his ill-fated return.

That has left 11 seniors remaining, in addition to the academy graduates and development squad.

At present, wage deferrals are in place indefinitely – believed to be under £10,000-a-week per player – thereby ensuring the club remains trading.

Birch well knows, however, such short-term fixes need to be followed up by a merciless onslaught on that £9.5m wage bill.

He said: ‘Doncaster Rovers, who have also come down from the Championship, will have a payroll less than £2m.

‘The average in the division is probably not as much as that.

‘At the moment this club’s is around £9.5m, which is massive.

‘Obviously it is all distorted by Ben Haim’s wages. While I expect others to leave over the summer, it remains the biggest concern – especially for prospective owners.

‘It is the key to Portpin coming in. They do not want to take it on board in its current state because, potentially, they will lose money next year.

‘I would say that is what is holding up the process at the moment.

‘The Trust are in the same boat and share the same views on the wage bill. There is no doubt about it – it is a big, big problem.

‘By agreeing to deferrals, the players are keeping the club afloat at the minute.

‘And that is what has enabled me to keep the club going until, perhaps, the end of the transfer window in August.

‘The deferrals are extremely substantial and have been in place since April.

‘That is funded out of the £200,000-a-month distribution money from the Football League.

‘However, this stops at the end of June and we revert to the League One level, which is £65,000-a-month.

‘This is the conundrum. Effectively they are keeping the club alive but then they also have a role to play in the future, in terms of compromise agreements.’

Of the current squad of 11 senior players, only Marko Futacs has been offered a new deal.

However, the Hungarian striker must accept lower terms should he sign his 12-month contract.

His existing deal would have seen him earn more than Ward next season, if the Emsworth youngster had stayed. The majority of those still at the club have contracts worth between £15,000 and £20,000 a week, a hindrance in attempts to move them on.

The wage burdens of Kanu and Ben Haim are frustrating, while not a single bid has been tabled for any of their team-mates.

Yet Birch is confident players will depart this summer. Eventually.

He added: ‘If you are a player, you are going to sit there and see how things pan out. So it is going to go right to the 11th hour.

‘Some of them will leave, no doubt about that. It is resolvable but it will take time.

‘For example, I’m not going to seek a compromise deal with the likes of Luke Varney as he is probably one of five players we are looking to sell.

‘The others are Greg Halford, Erik Huseklepp, Liam Lawrence, David Norris – and, maybe, Aaron Mokoena.

‘We might get money for them but it will take time.

‘Nine months ago Erik Huseklepp was worth 2.37m euros. Now they tell me we cannot give him away. How can that be?

‘Whether it be sales or compromises, this is going to be a long process. But one we have to be successful in.’