For at least seven days, ‘Staying Alive’ may soon be superseding the ‘Pompey Chimes’ at Fratton Park. Sympathy must go to the poor souls who find themselves within earshot of John ‘Portsmouth Football Club’ Westwood's attempts at emulating the Gibb brothers' falsetto.
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs seems to want to land the felling blow of execution, such has been their exasperation with football clubs going into administration and football debts being paid ahead of tax, as over 50 have done in the Football League. Pompey would be the first club from the Premier League to go into administration - or, worse, extinction - meaning the division’s supremo, Richard Scudamore, can no longer use that fact as evidence of the prudence of the English top-flight.
A week is a long time in Pompey, especially where club ownership is concerned. In their defence against the winding-up order, the club submitted that they have two potential new owners to save them from the £11.5 million the HMRC demands.
That would seem to signal further agony if you are a Portsmouth fan. Peter Storrie's claim that at least one of the club’s potential suitors is serious can barely ring true after the litany of questionable owners who have run the club since Milan Mandaric sold up in 2006. Sacha Gaydamak's reign may have delivered the FA Cup, a first major honour since 1950, yet his stewardship will always be remembered for his pulling of a financial plug and a resultant flood of debt. The less said about unqualified Dr Al Fahim the better, while Ali al-Faraj has been so absent as to be rumoured to not even exist. Current owner Balram Chainrai has already all but washed his hands of the affair.
The reduction of a wage bill that is rumoured to be 90% of turnover - with the likes of John Utaka, no footballing colossus he, reported to be on £80k a week - and even the sale of players for a combined fee of around £85 million seem to have made little impression on Portsmouth's problems. Players and staff have gone unpaid, with reports of the wait for wages as periodical as the dawning of a new month.
Pompey have paid the price for hocking their future, with fewer assets to use as collateral. In the days of the ‘big four’, the fact that a provincial club won the 2008 FA Cup, making them the first since Everton in 1995 to break the stronghold, was hailed as a fairytale, proof of the "magic of the cup". In fact, such romance was truly sullied by the committing of such financial hari kari to achieve that end.
Avram Grant followed his team's draw with Sunderland on Tuesday by first lambasting referees for their persecution of Portsmouth and then saying that the authorities should offer clemency. His words were emotive: "I want to say something even for the courts tomorrow. Football is not one plus one is two - it is a passionate game. It is not a clear business where there are no feelings. There are feelings of fans, players and my own. There are problems but football is more than this."
He had shown that he may have a grip on the pain of Portsmouth's fans, one of whom wrote to us on Facebook saying: "I would love for them to be in League 2. That would mean they still exist, which I'm doubtful of right now."
However, that Grant followed his homily with an admittance that he doesn’t know “about the financial situation" was another indicator of those in the game's head-in-sand attitude to football’s flow of money. In England, the sport moved closer to becoming a fully-fledged business in 1992 at the inception of the Premier League, itself bringing a rule change that directors could take money out the game - a crucial factor that eventually granted us the Glazers, Hicks and Gillett. The flush of money that sees John Terry earning £170,000 a week and paying his way out of trouble of his own making, via the courts and otherwise, comes from that same root.
And the money frittered away at Portsmouth and now owing to HMRC was generated from that same money-making business, the business of football, which must now accept the rules that other businesses must abide by. Tears will be shed if Portsmouth go bust and sympathy must be offered to those hurt by their demise, but a harsh dose of reality may just be about to be served.