x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Life goes on after Greece or even after Portsmouth

Like the death of Michael Jackson or the release from jail of Nelson Mandela, doubtless we will all remember where we were when the news of the demise of Portsmouth Football Club breaks.

Like the death of Michael Jackson or the release from jail of Nelson Mandela, doubtless we will all remember where we were when the news of the demise of Portsmouth Football Club breaks. As one of the finest south coast teams in the English Premier League, they will be forever mourned by lovers of the long ball game or connoisseurs of loony goalkeepers. Their present incumbent, David James, is in a class of his own. The club has been thrown a lifeline, a temporary stay of execution, but time is running out, for the bean counters are moving in and another court appearance beckons. Who can save them now?

The demise of Greece may be less memorable, but it is also noteworthy. Six years ago they were the champions of Europe. Now they are in a terrible moussaka, and likely to be relegated. Soon the Greek government will no longer be in control of the country. That has already happened at Portsmouth Football Club, but on a more parlous scale. The manager can pick the team, but he has no idea if they are going to be paid. No doubt much of the talk of tactics must centre on where to go to cash a bouncing cheque.

What happens when a football club goes into receivership? Well, generally they lose heavily. A week ago Portsmouth were turned over 5-0 by Manchester United. They did manage to score three times, but unfortunately on each occasion the ball went into their own net rather than the opposition's. Portsmouth's problems stem from not paying any taxes, much like Greece's, which failed to raise any. Not paying taxes, as well as failing to tackle back, is a national sport in Greece. If Pompey, as Portsmouth's followers call it, goes under, it would spell the end of a club dating back to 1898. Greece is thought to be rather older, formed in 1830 when it signed the London Protocol and gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Before then it had a long, noble history with some star players whose influence can still be felt today, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

The court does not have the power to put the club into administration, which would have allowed it to continue trading and protect it from its creditors. Instead, it has the power to order the wholesale destruction of Portsmouth Football Club. The players will have their contracts terminated and the assets of the club would be sold off. The creditors are unlikely to see any money, rather like the taxman and the players, who have already had their wages deferred on four occasions this season.

"Pompey's fate may be the result of years of mismanagement and short-term thinking, but it occurred in a league framework that allows clubs to speculate almost without constraint," thundered The Daily Telegraph. The paper had little to say on the Glory That Was Greece, mainly because the paper prefers not to cover too many matters "foreign". It is sub-editors, not classicists, who don't even realise that Socrates was a footballer. They do, however, appreciate that Modern Greece traces its roots to Ancient Greece, famous for inventing democracy, Doric columns, lyrical music, the Olympics, tragedy and Nescafé frappé.

As Karl Marx said: "Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Nor did he continue: "The third time as Portsmouth Football Club." Nor even, for a finale, as Greece. So how have the Greeks reacted to the news that their European friends might bail them out? By downing tools and going on strike. That should help with their budget deficit, although seeing how bad it is, nothing they don't do will make any difference.

Bailing out Greece is not necessary to save the euro. It may not happen anyway, as all their European neighbours have offered is fudge. There is a common assumption that a default would signal the end of the single currency experiment. But why would a default in Greece undermine the euro? If California went under, after all, that would not cripple the US dollar. Greece should be ejected from the euro zone and we could all enjoy cheap summer holidays there forever.

It may not be good for the rich Greeks, but it doesn't signal the end of Germany or France, just as Portsmouth decline doesn't spell the end of Chelsea or Manchester City football clubs. (Manchester United is another matter. They have debt problems of their own.) Just as long as the European Central Bank does not crank up the printing press to pay off Greece's debt, the euro should emerge unscathed and the Germans won't need to dust off their wheelbarrows in case they need to buy a loaf of bread. In any case, nobody who can be saved these days is allowed to fail. We'll probably see a Greek reprieve, and who knows, Pompey may survive.

Maybe that is how it should be. Pompey was Roman, after all. rwright@thenational.ae