Where did it all go wrong? Could the Pompey Supporters’ Trust be a light at the end of a tunnel?
Pompey have seen better days, with relegation and administration being just a few of the issues they have faced.
But now, with the increasing certainty of the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust’s takeover, it seems like things may be starting to look up.
In the past, what has gone on behind the scenes at Portsmouth Football Club has still to this day, remained somewhat unclear.
Back in February 2002 Peter Storrie was appointed Chief Executive Officer at the club by owner Milan Mandaric, under the recommendation of manager Harry Redknapp.
Storrie’s role included reviewing the organisation and infrastructure of the club, something that he had arguably done dubiously.
In 2006 Alexandre Gaydamak bought Pompey from Mandaric and named Storrie Executive Chairman.
Gaydamak was believed to be a super-rich owner who would transform the Blues into a club like today’s Man City.
Pompey bought record signing Peter Crouch for around £11m, as well as various other players such as John Utaka (£7m), Sulley Muntari (£7m) and Jermaine Defoe (£6m), and offered them bumper contracts.
Gaydamak and Storrie also made plans to develop a new stadium in the harbour, with costs estimated at around £600m.
Storrie told Metro: “The new stadium along with plans for the club’s new training ground at Titchfield are proof of where we want Pompey to be – playing at the highest level and in a stadium befitting a top Premiership side.”
At first everything appeared too good to be true for the fans, with the club winning the F.A Cup in the 2007-2008 season.
And in fact it was too good to be true. Pompey were aiming for something they simply could not afford.
Due to financial difficulties the Blues had to sell the majority of their best and most highly paid players during the 2008-2009 season, including Glen Johnson, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjčar and Sylvain Distin.
Gaydamak then jumped ship on July 21st 2009, selling the South Coast club to Arab businessman Sulaiman Al-Fahim.
Al-Fahim took the title of Chairman and Storrie returned to his position as Chief Executive Officer.
Al-Fahim was yet another owner claiming to be mega rich, and so gullible Pompey signed Tommy Smith from Watford for a fee believed to be £1.8m, as well as loanees Aruna Dindane, Frederic Piquionne, and Jamie O’Hara.
From then on things only got worse.
Al-Fahim was unable to produce the funds needed to pay the club’s wage bill, and after just over 40 days in charge Al-Fahim sold 90% of his shares to Ali Al Faraj on October 5th.
Unsurprisingly Al Faraj was also unable to pay the wage bill, and on the 4th of February 2010 Balram Chanrai and his company Portpin took controlling interest in the club to protect his £17m bridging-loan he had given to Al Faraj.
Chanrai decided to place Pompey into administration on the 26th of February, due to debts reportedly between £60m and £70m.
The Fratton side were then given a nine-point penalty because of this, and eventually relegated to the Championship.
Peter Storrie stepped down as Chief Executive on the 12th of March, which is unsurprising seeing as the club’s debts had supposedly reached a massive £135m by the time he had left.
These huge debts caused many fans to start wondering where the money has gone, after high profile players such as Lassana Diarra, Johnson and Muntari had been sold for huge cash amounts, not to mention money gained from TV deals and winning the F.A Cup.
Storrie told Soccernet that the majority of the money had been spent on salaries: “The bulk of the money has gone to the players in wages.
“The cost of the players’ wages this year is £37m. Last season, when it was running at its height, it was £52m, and the year before it was £42m. The vast majority of the money over the last two to three years has gone on players’ wages, and also on their transfer fees.”
This only reiterates the point that the club was punching above their weight and buying players well above their financial capabilities.
So what on earth was Storrie doing with his time supposedly spent monitoring the organisation and infrastructure of the club?
During his spell at Portsmouth, Storrie had also been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting, along with Redknapp, Mandaric, Amdy Faye, and Faye’s agent Willie McKay.
They were eventually cleared of the allegations involving the £2 million transfer of Faye from Pompey to Newcastle in 2005.
But that does not stop a deceiving picture being painted of Storrie, and Pompey fans may never know if Storrie had the club’s interests at heart or his own.
Life in the Championship during the 2010/2011 season wasn’t so bad for the Blues, who finished a respectable 16th.
During that season they had fought off a winding up petition to close the club. Liquidation was avoided due to Chanrai formally buying the club on October 24th 2011, and Pompey exited from administration.
On June 1st 2011 Pompey was then sold to Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov’s company Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI).
The astonishing cycle then continued, with the Fratton side bringing in Jason Pearce, David Norris, Greg Halford, Luke Varney, Stephen Henderson and Benjani before the 2011/2012 season.
On the 24th of November 2011 Antonov was arrested for alleged asset stripping at a Lithuanian bank, and resigned as Portsmouth chairman on the 29th of November due to CSI entering administration.
Pompey yet again went into administration in mid-February, with Trevor Birch and accountancy firm PKF appointed administrators.
They were given a 10-point deduction and relegated to league 1, where they had to get rid of their whole professional squad to sort out their ridiculously high wage bill before starting the season.
Ben Haim was supposedly the highest paid player at the club on £36,000 a week.
And now it seems as though the next owner will either be Chanrai again, or the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust.
The only logical decision would surely be for the PST to take control of the South Coast club.
And with administrators naming the Trust as the preferred bidder for the the club, Pompey may finally have a reputable owner.
In a Share Prospectus released by the PST, they said: “the accumulated losses we have made in the recent ownerships have left us in League 1, put Pompey at risk and tested the goodwill towards the club from the community to its limits.
“With the damage that has been done over the past few years, the only chance for PFC to survive in the long term is to become sustainable.”
The one thing preventing the Trust’s takeover is Chanrai is refusing to sell Fratton Park for market value as he is using it to protect money he is apparently owed.
The club has already offered him a respectable £2.75 million, but the businessman has refused.
So the decision whether or not the PST take control of the club relies on a court decision on the 13th and 14th of December 2012 regarding the sale of Fratton Park.
If the PST win the hearing, then an independent valuation will be made and property developer Stuart Robinson will buy the stadium and lease it back to Pompey.
But if Chanrai wins the court case, then Pompey will either be liquidated or rebought by Chanrai.
So fundamentally, the future of Portsmouth Football Club remains with the High Court.
Should the Trust succeed, the club would then be able to start from scratch, and rebuild from top to bottom.
In an official statement from the PST, Ashley Brown, Chairman of the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust said: “There is a lot of work to be done, but the PST’s ethos is clear: run the club both transparently and honestly, with the fans at the heart of Portsmouth FC. “
Fans can for the first time in years, feel confident that their club will be run in a professional and resourceful manner.
Players will be brought in on basic salaries, rather than ludicrous Champions League salaries. Owners will watch games, rather than watch the club’s funds pour into their pockets.
It may take a while to transform Fratton Park into a fortress again, but once the club’s toxins have been flushed, the Pompey Chimes will finally be heard roaring throughout the stadium once again.