The English FA's tier system is one of the most compelling setups in the sports world. Scanning through the nPower Championship's (and League One's) promotion contenders in early May is an annual rite of spring. Rising through England's ranks has an everyman feel to it, and who doesn't love a good underdog success story.
Then there's the foot of the table.
Wolverhampton are on their way down to League One after spending 2011-12 in the Premiership. A sad story, but what about the plight of 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth. Pompey's freefall through the English ranks found them at the bottom position of League One this campaign (only QPR and Reading have less points in all of jolly old England, Conference included).
How does a club go from winning the FA Cup and playing in Europe (2008-09 UEFA Cup) to relegation to League Two and two administration stints in three years?
Sorry, the blame does not lie solely at the feet of lovable old Huckster Harry.
Starting in 2007, the club sank a lot of money into players that brought little long-term return—including Sulley Muntari, John Utaka, Peter Crouch, Younes Kaboul and Jermain Defoe. The club's fall from grace began in earnest in the 2009-10 campaign with a fire sale of many of these players.
Despite these measures, paychecks started bouncing in October of 2009. A transfer embargo prevented the club from making important moves during the winter window and the club entered administration in February of 2010.
As a result of Pompey's insolvency (some £135 million in debt), a nine-point penalty was levied in March 2010. Relegation from the top flight was inevitable and confirmed in early April of that season.
In 2010-11, Pompey finished 16th in its first Championship campaign since 2002.
After owner Vladimir Aleksandrovich Antonov ran afoul of Lithuanian law in late 2011, the club found itself in dire straits once again, leading to another stretch of administration starting in February of 2012.
This time a 10-point penalty was assessed, which proved too much of a burden for PFC to stay in the Championship (Pompey would have finished on 50 points—good enough for 18th position over Peterborough, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Barnsley—but with the penalty they ended up in 22nd).
Portsmouth's first season in the third tier in 30 years would prove to be even more catastrophic than the previous campaign. Relegation cost the club its entire roster and coaching staff and an additional 10-point garnishment was enacted December 2012.
Financial malfeasance notwithstanding, the club was simply dreadful this past campaign, including a 23-match winless streak that began in October 2012 and didn't end until March 2 with a 2-1 win away to Crewe Alexandra.
While things have looked bleak on the pitch and in the boardroom for four seasons running, it's not all doom and gloom on the South Coast. As per a report in The Guardian, The Pompey Supporters Trust completed its purchase of the club on April 19 with an eye towards reinvigorating the club's spirit.
PFC will surely be one of England's most storied clubs to ever play football in the fourth tier. To some degree, they have done Leeds one better by slipping all the way to League Two—Leeds has been adrift since 2003-04, dipping to League One just once in 2006-07.
A trip to football Siberia (actually, such exotic locales as Morecambe and Dagenham will be on Pompey's itinerary in 2013-14) is not necessarily a death sentence as Wolverhampton proved after their crisis in the 1980s (granted, Wolves are crap, again).
We shall see what happens to Portsmouth F.C., a once-decorated club (First Division league titles in 1948-49 and 1949-50; FA Cups in 1939 and 2008) that has fallen on hard times. Oblivion seems like a harsh fate—let's hope a turnabout is on the cards.