London: Debt-ravaged Portsmouth bowed to the inevitable on Saturday when they were relegated from the Premier League on the eve of their FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur.
The south coast club went down without kicking a ball on the day, their slim hopes of survival snuffed out by West Ham beating Sunderland 1-0.
In truth, their chances had already been effectively killed off when they were docked nine points for going into administration in February.
With West Ham moving four points clear of the drop zone, Portsmouth are mathematically unable to escape with five matches remaining.
In the only other Premier League game of the day, Burnley trounced Hull City 4-1 in a battle between the two sides most likely to follow Portsmouth down to the Championship (second division).
Both have 27 points with Wigan Athletic and West Ham on 31. Portsmouth have 14. On the flip side, West Bromwich Albion secured their promotion back to the top flight, joining Newcastle United, after beating Doncaster Rovers 3-2.
After ending a 58-year wait for a major trophy in 2008, when they won the FA Cup to the sound of the Pompey Chimes, Portsmouth fans have had little to sing as the club lurched from crisis to crisis.
Since their last appearance at Wembley, the 112-year-old club -- English champions in 1949 and 1950 as well as twice FA Cup winners -- have been through four owners and as many managers.
The club’s status as the first Premier League side to go into administration resulted from a winding-up order presented by the government’s customs and revenue department for tax debts totalling at least 7.5 million pounds.
Now buckling under a massive debt burden, Portsmouth were put up for sale by Alexandre “Sacha” Gaydamak last August when the global economic crisis started to bite.
United Arab Emirates businessman Sulaiman al-Fahim stepped in and then sold 90 percent of his shares to Saudi businessman Ali al Faraj.
Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai became the fourth owner in less than a year, saying he had “zero interest” in running the club and hoped to offload it as soon as he could find another buyer.
Gaydamak’s father Arkady, a Russian-Israeli businessman, was convicted by a French court last year of illegal arms deals, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and other crimes.
“The adverse publicity surrounding Sacha’s father sent the banks who provided us with overdraft facilities into meltdown,” former chief executive Peter Storrie said in February.
“Overnight we had to find nearly 50 million pounds as well as sustain the running of the club.”
On the pitch, the situation was equally troubled with Portsmouth losing their opening seven matches of the season and struggling to pay players’ salaries.
Manager Paul Hart was sacked in November and Israeli Avram Grant, a former Chelsea boss, brought in to try and work an unlikely miracle.
Goalkeeper David James, one of only a handful of survivors from two years ago, suspected the club’s unexpected Cup success in 2008 might also have sowed the seeds of Portsmouth’s downfall because of the lavish bonuses paid out.
“I think to offer people the opportunity of big bonuses to qualify for Europe seemed like quite a safe bet because you don’t anticipate winning the Cup,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
“Bizarrely, had we not won the Cup it probably would have done us a lot better because we wouldn’t have qualified for Europe and we would have been able to build on two decent years of progression.”