In mere hours, Portsmouth FC will go before a London high court and plead for their continued existence. Wins and losses and even relegation don't seem so important anymore.
Pompey are $94 million in debt, but those are just numbers. The reality is striking. Four times this year they have failed to pay their players on time. They are on their fourth owner of the season, who took over the club as collateral for a loan to a previous owner. Two week ago their official website went down for a day because they couldn't pay the bills.
Most importantly, they owe almost $12 million in back taxes. The British equivalent of the IRS is prepared to terminate the company completely. The 112-year-old club could cease to exist completely.
Manager Avram Grant made the case that this is not a normal business, and should not be treated as such:
It is not simple. Football is not just one plus one equals two. It is a passion, it is not like any other business. It is not like buying an apartment. Football is more than this. It is about feelings, about the feelings of 250,000 who give their hearts to the club."
A hearing begins at 10:30 local time, in which they'll try to convince HMRC to give them a 28-day window to reach a settlement. Even if it's allowed, there's a good chance they'll be forced into bankruptcy, with an attendant nine-point penalty, all but ensuring they'll be relegated from the Premier League.
(Yes, I think it's fabulous that there's a concrete rule for penalizing bankrupt teams in the standings.)
Oh, and Portsmouth salvaged a point with a 96th minute goal against Sunderland.
Avram Grant pleads with High Court on eve of Portsmouth hearing [Times Of London]