The immediate past is traumatic and the future as yet unclear. Portsmouth fan Leon Tricker assesses the mess at Fratton Park
As the Chelsea players went up to collect their 2010 FA Cup winners’ medals, all you could hear ringing out across Wembley was the Pompey Chimes. We had dared to dream that we really could win the Cup again, a final act of defiance from fans, players and a manager united in adversity. But what do Portsmouth now have to show for seven years in the Premier League? We’ve got the same “stadium” we’ve always had, the same antiquated infrastructure, a shattered reputation and a mountain of debt. Fans up and down the country have expressed anger at Pompey’s predicament. But if you feel you’re missing out on something don’t worry – your club could be next.
So, while everyone else ponders if Theo Walcott would have made a difference in that quarter-final penalty shoot-out, here are some of the issues to be resolved at Fratton Park over the summer. On June 17, creditors vote on whether to accept the proposed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). The CVA offers creditors 20p in the pound, and is the key to Portsmouth exiting administration and avoiding a further points deduction. Assuming the CVA is agreed, then the hard work really begins.
The first announcements are likely to be that our most saleable players are leaving, and a new manager is on his way. Whoever succeeds Avram Grant will need to be affordable and know their way around the lower leagues. Of all the names linked with the club so far, Steve Cotterill seems the most likely candidate. But I do wonder whether it matters who gets handed the job, given the constraints under which they will be working.
Most fans are more concerned with who our next owner will be than who will be managing the team. Current owner Balram Chainrai divides opinion. Some feel that without his injection of cash then Portsmouth would have gone into liquidation, while others question his motivation for putting money into the club.
Chainrai has never pretended that he wants to be here for the long term and clearly he is not going to invest in the club further, so it is in the interests of all concerned that he moves on as quickly as possible. Some fans are calling for season-ticket boycotts, staying away from games or protests in the ground. It is understandable that supporters want to feel empowered, but I’m not convinced such public demonstrations will help to attract investors.
One issue has been resolved already – the appointment of a new chief executive. David Lampitt has seven years’ experience as part of the FA’s management team, and rumour has it the FA installed him at the club. Fans will simply welcome the replacement of Peter Storrie. The former chief executive is a man who likes to play down his role in events, and yet told the Daily Telegraph in March that the influence he had on the “football side” justified his salary and bonuses. These included £3,000 every time the team won a game and £1,500 for every draw. Storrie says he loves the club, but this interview indicates why he was never going to be the whistleblower at Portsmouth – money.
Storrie stepped down as chief executive when the club entered administration, but has been working for the club as a “consultant” ever since. Andrew Andronikou, Portsmouth’s administrator, says that Storrie’s help and contacts have been invaluable, but many fans are appalled by his refusal to show some dignity and humility and just leave us alone.
Whoever comes to Pompey in the future – whether it’s owners, chief executives, managers or players – needs to understand that the bond between the club and the community has been severely damaged. The club owes money to local businesses, schools and charity organisations. The fans have been fundraising to pay that money back, because the club has to make sure that supposedly more deserving causes – like Sol Campbell – get their share first.
The fiasco at Fratton Park has deeply hurt the city’s people and its image. Pompey fans want a new regime that will build for the future in partnership with the local community, not empty promises of star players and an instant push for promotion. Personally, I want to get back to moaning about team selection and bad luck on the pitch. The only “football finance” I want to discuss in the future is the price of a pie and a pint.
From WSC 281 July 2010