Supporters' trust bid successful
12 April ~ Many of the 1,700 Portsmouth fans travelling to Brentford tomorrow for their League One match will do so as shareholders. On Wednesday the club's administrators, BDO, struck a last-minute deal with Balram Chainrai's Portpin that allowed the Portsmouth Supporters' Trust (PST) to take over the club. When the deal is completed in the coming weeks, the Trust will own 51 per cent of Pompey. Their final day in court didn't lack drama; the case has been called to force Portpin to accept the Trust and BDO's valuation on Fratton Park.
That figure was £3 million, as opposed to the £12m demanded by Portpin, and the hearing was delayed that morning while BDO negotiated with Portpin's legal team, who reportedly made it known overnight that they were prepared to settle. After two adjournments – and much frantic refreshing of Twitter from Pompey fans in offices everywhere – the agreement was finally drawn up by 4pm and Justice Peter Smith announced that the Trust was in a position to take over the club. The final deal is believed to be worth £3m, plus a six-figure sum of add-ons covering costs and compensation.
Incoming Portsmouth chairman Iain McInnes, who is one of the group of high-net-worth individuals supporting the Trust bid, led the courtroom celebrations and, the following day sprayed champagne in the director's box at Fratton Park alongside PST board members.
The PST's achievement shouldn't be understated. Getting to the point after Pompey went into administration in February 2012 has been a triumph of persistence, the remarkable work of a few individuals and the collective belief – along with £2m in share pledges – of the supporter base that they were the only ones who wanted the best for the long-term future of their club. Portpin thought that clinging on to Portsmouth would be easier than this.
A few parties need to be singled out for their achievements. Investigative blogger Micah Hall's series of articles exposed the inner workings of Fratton Park over the past few years and convinced the Football League that Portpin had acted as shadow directors over the 2011-12 winter, barring them from owning Portsmouth again under League rules. The Football League should be praised for standing by these regulations and then refusing to be swayed by football financier Keith Harris's late attempt at a bid. The PST leadership – McInnes along with Ashley Brown, Mick Williams and others – were dignified and forthright as the takeover dragged on through Christmas and into the spring.
The administrators have aimed for Pompey to come out of administration by April 22, when the Football League should impose a ten-point penalty that will mean League Two football next season. But for Portsmouth supporters, watching their team with football, not finances, at the front of their mind seems like something from a bygone age. Whatever the division, few on the south coast can wait for August to begin. James de Mellow