Can Supporters Save Portsmouth?
Portsmouth FC has had a rich history in English soccer since it was formed in 1898. Since its FA Cup victory in 2008, however, the club has been a financial wreck through several owners and forced bankrupcies. Its fans have remained devoted Pompey, so much so they are taking the step of attempting to save the club.
The Portsmouth Supporters Trust is attempting to raise more than £2 million (approximately $3.2 million) in an effort to purchase the club after it was placed into administration in February for the second time in two years. In a prospectus, trust officials said they had received deposits toward the £1,000 shares from more than 2,000 people.
The hoped-for sale date of Portsmouth by Christmas was delayed earlier in December when a court postponed a hearing to January between the club’s administrator and the owner of Fratton Park, Balram Chainrai, who owned the club during the 2010-11 season. Chainrai is holding Fratton Park as security as he reportedly is owed at least £12 million ($19.2 million) by the club. He was offered £2.75 million ($4.4 million) for the stadium by the trust, but rejected it.
According to the trust’s prospectus, the club’s sale may be dependent on a developer’s purchase of Fratton Park, which would be leased to the club with a buy-back option.
While there is a five-year plan already devised, should the supporters be successful with their sale, they may have to rebuild Portsmouth from scratch. It left the Premier League in 2010 after its first bankrupcy cost it nine points in the league table. February’s declaration of the club going into administration, for unpaid taxes, meant a 10-point penalty, which resulted in relegation from the Championship into League One.
Portsmouth likely will fall into League Two once the club leaves administration. The Football League, in allowing Portsmouth to remain a member, charged another 10-point deduction that would be assessed once financial problems have been settled. With Pompey in the four-team relegation zone, the deduction likely would doom them to the fourth division.
Though relegation is a blemish on a club’s history, such a move could benefit Portsmouth’s future. Reduced expenses, mostly in salaries, could help the trust’s push toward a balanced budget for the club, something they hope to accomplish by the 2014-15 season. A sale would be a fresh start, and rather than having an owner few fans want, Portsmouth would have a solid fan base since many of them will have worked to save it.
Connect with J.J. Zucal on Twitter @BriereBear.
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