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Will Pompey Supporters Trust Save Portsmouth?

Wednesday 17th April 2013
Alex Dodd looks at the current situation of his beloved Portsmouth who have recently been taken over by their Supporters Trust .

The 10th of April 2013 will be the day that not a single Portsmouth supporter will ever forget. Five years of mismanagement and uncertainty are finally at an end for Portsmouth after the Pompey Supporters Trust chased away the loan sharks and money changers that almost plunged their much loved south-coast club into deep depths of liquidation.

On the day when it was literally twist or bust for Pompey, the club's loyal following have agreed a deal to take full control of the club after 12 months embroiled in a financial war with the crooks that allowed the situation at Pompey to spiral. For years the financial chaos at Portsmouth has been a mass of confusion, but if you get your head around Pompey's chop and change in ownership you are already half way there.

Alexandre Gaydamak, was the first “rich owner” to take a fancy to the blues, but he overspent by millions and turned out to have no money once his father froze all his bank accounts.

Second in was Sulaiman Al-Fahim claiming to be a Gulf billionaire, unsurprisingly that turned out to be false and he had to borrow significant sums and plunge the debt levels even lower.

Next was Ali al 'Mirage' Faraj as he's known to the Pompey faithful. His tenancy in the south lasted barely a few months; he had to borrow a reported £17 million from Balram Chainrai just to keep the club afloat, which is then why Chainrai forcibly took control of the club in 2010. Chainrai then took it on himself to flog the club to Russian banker Vladimir Antonov, but when his banks and assets went bust in late 2011 Pompey were once again at a loss.

However there were a group of supporters who were determined to make sure Portsmouth Football Club would not fall into the wrong hands again. The consortium of volunteers led by lifelong Pompey fan Ashley Brown worked tirelessly to ensure that the city's football team had a stable future. The Pompey Supporters Trust were handed a breakthrough last October when administrator Trevor Birch announced that they were the ‘preferred bidders' in the battle for ownership of Pompey. Chainrai's ownership of Fratton Park was the only stepping stone between them and full ownership of their beloved football club.

Chainrai claims to be owed £17 million by the 2008 FA cup winners, and was demanding a fee of up to £8 million for the stadium alone, a price that was way out of reach for the PST. The supporters trust were determined to see that their club didn't go the same way as dissolved clubs like Chester City and Rushden and Diamonds. With the help of the City Council they went public with a bid of £2.75 million for Fratton Park, but Chainrai would not budge. This meant it was so that the high court was to be Pompey's executioner or saviour , thankfully for them it was the latter.

What does this mean for Pompey I hear you ask? Well in the next few weeks the supports will continue buying shares in the club and they are likely to become the biggest fan owned club in the country. This coming summer will be the first in a long time where there is not going to be a squad exodus. Continuity and consistency will be essential if the club is ever going to reach the heights of five years ago ever again.

Relegation this season wouldn't be a disaster for Pompey at all; with the club still facing a further 10 points still to be deducted League Two  is looking the likely destination for them next season. The fourth tier can be the basis for the club to rebuild and regroup.

The southerners should be encouraged by the way Germany's football clubs are run. Legislation over there states that all clubs have to be majority owned by their own supporters. You might think that this must impede the clubs financially but look at the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, both are flying in the Champions League at present and both have world-class players in their squads. In fact clubs in England should take note of what is happening with ownership overseas. Oil-rich Russians and the deep pockets of the Saudi's should not be the be all and end all.

This reliance on foreign investors does not promote self-sustainability. If any of these owners pulled the plug on their respective clubs they would take a similar route that Pompey has. If Portsmouth thought about being self-sustaining five years ago and not relying on the false promises and the ‘big-bucks' of Gaydamak they might have a completely different situation now.

Pompey have shown the country how not to run a football club over the last 5 years, an FA cup winner and Europa league competitor should not ever be nose-diving into to League Two. Now it's time for Pompey to show the country how a football club should be run.
Alex Dodd
Second year Sports Journalism student at Staffs Uni, lover of all things football, cycling enthusiast, gadget hoarder, gym goer and terrible cook. Family originate from Manchester but grew up in Portsmouth, somehow got roped into supporting both, best of both worlds I guess.

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