Birch: Portsmouth City Council could still buy Fratton Park

OFF THE AGENDA Fratton Park
OFF THE AGENDA Fratton Park
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POMPEY’S administrator has said Portsmouth City Council shouldn’t buy Fratton Park - but hasn’t ruled out a deal in the future.

Yesterday a debate on whether the authority should step in to ensure the future of the stadium was cancelled after a warning from PFK partner Trevor Birch.

Tory councillor Steve Wemyss planned to raise the issue at a meeting of the full council, but removed the motion at the last minute and said he did not want to harm the club.

The abandoned motion urged the council to open negotiations with the owners of Fratton Park with a view to acquiring its freehold.

But in an email to the council’s chief executive, David Williams, Pompey’s administrator warned that separating the club and its ground would make any potential sale more difficult.

He said: ‘The council asked for my thoughts on the motion and I responded by saying that selling Fratton Park separately at this stage could possibly hinder our discussions with potential buyers.

‘We need to keep our options open and, for the moment, that means offering bidders the opportunity to acquire the ground together with the club’s other assets.

‘The club is likely to be worth more if it’s sold in its entirety rather than split up.

‘We have a good relationship with the council and we may well talk to them about this again if the situation changes in the future.’

Cllr Wemyss said he still believed they could buy the stadium in the future, but was happy to drop the plan when he found out it didn’t have the administrator’s support.

He said: ‘I have no wish to harm the club or the future of the club.

‘I have been a fan all my life and all I want is to make sure that there is football in Portsmouth for the foreseeable future.

‘It could be that if the club doesn’t get sold then we will end up looking at this again.

‘And we would still need to know how much it would cost, which was the reason behind this motion.’

But leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the Portsmouth Plan already made it clear to developers that the stadium could only be used for football.

‘I am sorry that they put forward this motion which could have hurt the club badly,’ he said. ‘It gave the impression that Fratton Park is not protected when it is. They should put party politics to one side and actually talk to us, or talk to the administrator, and they would have found out what they were doing was stupid.’