In news that isn’t a huge shock Portsmouth City Council this afternoon voted unanimously to approve a £1.45m bridging loan to the Portsmouth Supporters Trust as they attempt to save the football club from being consigned to the history books.
Pompey City Council have long been supporters of the football club and have historically been pretty good to them. This includes planning permission for Parkway for the Brent Geese got involved and the stadium plans for the dockland stadium would also have sailed through but the club shut down these plans due to the credit crunch and the owner finally realising that he didn’t actually have any money. A small problem but one that owners of Portsmouth Football Club have had in the past few years.
This news leaves two offers on the table for the administrators, one from Balram Chainrai who has owned the club before but I wouldn’t trust as far as I could drop-kick him and one from the Supporters Trust who want to get the fans to takeover the club. These are (unsurprisingly) the guys that I am backing fully and should they be successful it will undoubtably be the best news to come out of Fratton Park in a long while.
Portsmouth (and the surrounding suburbs) is a bit of a strange place compared to many other towns and cities across the UK. When I was young you didn’t really see any Manchester United or Liverpool tops around – you only saw Pompey ones. A bit like Newcastle and Sunderland – if you were born in the city then you were a Portsmouth fan. That is just the way it is. Even if you didn’t like football you’d get caught up in Pompey fever if the club had a cup run or a promotion push. The club has always been an integral part of the city.
However a series of owners of dubious quality have left a lot of fans – me included – extremely disillusioned with the club. However if the supporters are able to take over the club then hopefully many of these people will once more come back into the fold. I know that if the Pompey Supporters Trust do takeover the club then my interest will be piqued once more. I hope they win and the club will be embedded into the community once more.
I have this idealistic scenario of money being spend on the foundations of the club from the youth upwards as there are extremely talented kids in the Pompey area who go elsewhere because of our lack of facilities. I also dream of players going into schools on a semi-regular basis doing coaching sessions. Giving out free tickets to schools to give to excelling pupils. The next generation of Pompey fans need to be wooed and the best way to do that is getting into the schools and having current players doing coaching say one afternoon every other week would be real progress. Maybe that is an idealistic hope but it is one I have.
I’d like to say on a personal level a huge thank you to the Trust for keeping my love of the club just above life support. If your hard work pays off then I really do think many fans will back you – and the club – and whilst many won’t buy shares I suspect they’ll be a sharp uptake in Season Ticket sales if they knew the money wasn’t going to Chainrai. Also a big thank you to the Lib Dems – and the council as a whole who unanimously backed these plans. As was said today the club itself brings in around £300m of business to various Portsmouth based businesses just by being there so this loan will help secure that business and no public services will be put at risk unless the Trust fail to repay the money but the business plan shows that a failure to repay this loan isn’t likely.
Today in the Council Chambers in Portsmouth might have been the best day in the recent history of Portsmouth Football Club. It cannot be understated and all parties – from the supporters trust through the fans and the councillors deserve credit for giving the club a real chance – not only to just survive – but to get back on its feet and finally put the past few years behind us and move forward with long-term planning.
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