THE man holding the purse-strings at Fratton Park says it’s ‘touch and go’ whether Pompey will survive its second administration in two years.
Trevor Birch of accountancy firm PKF told a meeting of Pompey fans last night that the club only had enough money to survive until the middle of April.
It has accumulated debts of between £40m and £50m, which include old debt from the last time the club went into administration, in 2010, and around £8m which has been run up in the last two years.
And despite the club’s bank accounts being unfrozen, staff have still not been paid, redundancies have been announced and there have been cuts to working hours and players are due to be asked today to defer their wages until the end of the season.
Mr Birch said: ‘This is because the cash is going to run out quite quickly, by the middle of April.
‘At the moment it is going to be touch and go.
‘We’ve got very little income to play with.’
There is also a possibility, he added, that if Pompey are relegated again the Premier League could decide to ask all the Premiership teams whether the club should get the remainder of its parachute payments – the money it is paid when it is relegated from the top flight.
He also told fans he does not want to start selling the first round of 2012/2013 season tickets early.
He said: ‘What we’re reluctant to do is take money from supporters and then the worst-case scenario happens, the club is liquidated and the fans’ money is then used to pay for the administration.’
The future looks bleak, and Mr Birch said there is no potential buyer waiting in the wings to save the club.
But what began as a stark assessment of the precarious position the club is in turned into a talk of hope.
He said: ‘I can’t believe I am saying this, but my gut feeling is that we will be able to sell.’
Mr Birch was asked by fans about the land surrounding Fratton Park, which still belongs to former Pompey owner Sacha Gaydamak, and which became a ‘ransom strip’ during negotiations to save the club last time round in October 2010.
It is vital to the future of the club because any development of Fratton Park would need to use it.
Mr Gaydamak used the land – and a debt – as a bargaining chip as he and former Pompey owner Balram Chainrai were business rivals.
Mr Birch said: ‘That’s something we’re going to have to address pretty quickly to attract new owners.’
He added that negotiations between Mr Gaydamak and prospective owners could become easier, as Balram Chainrai is no longer the owner.
But Mr Birch said: ‘I haven’t had a conversation with [Mr Gaydamak’s people] about it yet.’
Fans were reassured when Mr Birch said it would be he who sets the selling price for the club, and not Mr Chainrai, who still holds a debenture – similar to a bank holding a mortgage – over the club.
And he added: ‘I’m an officer of the court and I can sell it for whatever I think it’s worth, whatever I can get for it.’
And when asked whether he would be prepared to address the fans again before the end of the season, he nodded and said: ‘I’ll do whatever people think is the right thing for me to do.’
The meeting was held in a cold Victory Lounge, though the administrator got a warm reception from fans when he arrived shortly before 7pm.
Mr Birch was accompanied by joint administrator Bryan Jackson,
The pair were given a round of applause by fans at the end of the meeting, and stayed to speak directly to those who attended the meeting and had extra questions.