Administration looms but MP finally gets Pompey and HMRC talking

114431_POMPEY_SAINTS_18/12/11''Portsmouth FC V Southampton FC at Fratton Park in NPower Championship 2011/12.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (114431-461)
114431_POMPEY_SAINTS_18/12/11''Portsmouth FC V Southampton FC at Fratton Park in NPower Championship 2011/12.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (114431-461)
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TODAY Pompey bosses were due finally get a chance to speak directly to the taxman.

As fears grew that the club was about to enter administration for the second time in two years, HMRC agreed to get back around the negotiating table with the club.

Their decision is the result of an intervention by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who has been meeting Treasury ministers to try and set up a dialogue.

David Lampitt and other representatives from Portsmouth FC were set to take part in a conference call with the taxman this morning at 10.30am, in which they were expected to ask for more time to pay Pompey’s tax bill.

At the request of the club Ms Mordaunt was also due to take part in negotiations in the hope of arriving at a compromise which suits both sides.

It comes after a winding-up petition was issued by HMRC at the beginning of January which led to Pompey’s bank accounts being frozen, leaving them unable to pay players and staff.

This was after they missed two tax payments totalling £800,000 each for December and January. The club awaits a hearing on February 20 in the High Court to determine its fate.

But if the club goes into administration the winding-up petition will be stopped, giving HMRC less chance of recovering its money – see Q&A panel on the right.

Ms Mordaunt said it was time for the taxman to be pragmatic and realise that keeping Pompey afloat was in everybody’s interest.

She said: ‘I totally understand HMRC’s remit, I just want us to be practical about this. Of course there is a plan B and even plan C but let’s look at the timetable and see what is possible.

‘HMRC has to be repaid, but we can sort it out together.

‘What we can’t have is people not talking to each other because they don’t think they should or they have already decided what should happen.

‘It is encouraging that we have got them talking. I think my role in this is to facilitate conversations that are going to end up with a happy outcome.’

The MP’s calls were boosted by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions last week, who said he would look to arrange a meeting between the two parties, adding ‘we must do everything we can’ to ensure Pompey survives’.

Ms Mordaunt added: ‘The situation is loads better than two weeks ago when there didn’t seem to be any possibility of them talking.

‘This is a very positive development. I have no doubt the club will survive. It could be sold, and we could buy more time with HMRC to get the club’s finances in order.

‘People are working so hard to make sure that we have got all bases covered and we are ready to do whatever is necessary to secure the club’s survival.’

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock agreed that the taxman should give the club more time to sort itself out.

‘It is in nobody’s interests if the club goes into administration,’ he said. ‘HMRC should be making sure that Pompey remains a viable business so that they can pay off what they owe. The club is going to get a substantial sum from the Premier League in the next week or two.

‘It is in HMRC’s interest to keep Pompey afloat and keep that parachute payment coming in so they can recover some of their money. But if they go into administration they will not receive anything.

‘I’m also hoping the Prime Minister could do something, he said he would help and now is the time for everyone to do everything they can.’

The club said it couldn’t comment on the ongoing financial negotiations, but maintained that it is seeking a validation order to unfreeze the accounts and pay staff, players and suppliers.