Fans raise doubts over potential Pompey owner

Joseph Cala pictured with the deeds to Italian side Salernitana

Joseph Cala pictured with the deeds to Italian side Salernitana

Liam O'Brien. Picture: Joe Pepler

O’Brien targeting regular football after Pompey exit

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DOUBTS have been raised over whether Joseph Cala is the right man for Pompey after more details emerged of his brief ownership of an Italian club last year.

The Italian-American businessman, who told The News he is in pole position to take over Pompey, was forced to give up his control of Italian Serie B side Salernitana after just 11 days.

In a blaze of publicity, Mr Cala was unveiled as the cash-strapped team’s new owner on February 11 last year.

He was quoted by La Gazzetta Dello Sport as saying he would clear Salernitana’s debts and float the club on the stock exchange to ‘enable the company to rake in money’ – the same plan he has for Pompey.

Mr Cala promised top-flight football to attract 35,000 fans to the team’s stadium and plans for a 24-hour television channel and web radio station for fans.

But he was forced to hand power back to the previous owner, Antonio Lombardi, on February 22 after he reportedly failed to pay 1m euros for the club.

Italian sports newspaper Corrierer Dello Sport quoted Mr Lombardi as saying: ‘Since he arrived in Salerno, he has not drawn a dollar from his pocket.’

But Mr Cala hinted at deep-seated financial problems at the club, telling the same paper: ‘I love Salerno but the fans are entitled to transparency.’

Five months later, the club was wound up by Italian footballing authorities investigating its accounts.

The bumpy ride in Italy has not put Mr Cala off approaching Pompey with a plan to list the club on the New York Stock Exchange.

The 50-year-old, who claims to have a personal wealth of 100m euros from a career in the US hotel industry and as a stock market trader, told The News he’d pay off the club’s £33m debts out of his own pocket and turn Pompey into ‘one of the best clubs in the world’.

But fans who have seen Pompey change hands an astonishing five times since 2009 are far from keen.

Online fans’ forums and message boards are awash with scepticism about Mr Cala’s ability to transform the club’s fortunes.

Bob Beech, of fans’ group Pompey SOS, said: ‘The impression I’ve been getting from other supporters is we’ve seen and heard all this before and we don’t think this guy is going to be different from other owners we’ve had in recent years.’

Pompey Supporters’ Trust, which has so far declined to comment on Mr Cala, said it was ‘reserving judgment’ on him for now.

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