THE Pompey Supporters’ Trust says the future of Pompey is in its hands after the Football League ruled out any new bids for the club.
Last night the League came out in favour of the trust’s plan to take over Portsmouth Football Club, and dismissed a last-minute bid by financier Keith Harris.
The announcement brought an abrupt end to a day of drama as battle lines were being drawn over reports of another bidder joining the race for the stricken club.
But now the trust is hoping the Football League has paved the way for it to take over, and is urging any fans who have not already united behind its bid to do so before it’s too late.
Colin Farmery, the trust’s spokesman, said: ‘We are very pleased with the Football League’s decision. This is a clear sign from the Football League they approve of us.
‘The situation with Pompey has been going on for almost 12 months now and the statement clearly relates to the fact they want this matter to be brought to a conclusion.
‘I would now urge those fans who haven’t yet added their pledge to do so.
‘To any fans who may have been sceptical, now is the time to put your money into the club that we support.’
The extra call for support was echoed by Bob Beech, of the fans’ group SOS Pompey.
He said: ‘This is it, it’s the trust or bust now. The only thing that will make the bid stronger now is if all fans get behind the share options.
‘We all know it’s tough out there and it’s difficult for fans to find that extra bit of money but if you can afford it please make a pledge because now is the time.’
The League’s intervention came barely 24 hours after reports surfaced that Keith Harris, a former chairman of the Football League, officially submitted a bid to take over at Fratton Park.
He promised to bring ‘much-needed stability’ to the club along with a financial clean sheet.
But his bid included initially leasing Fratton Park from charge-holders Portpin – meaning former Pompey owner Balram Chainrai would still be lurking in the background.
Amid yesterday’s drama, Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, wrote to Pompey’s administrator Trevor Birch urging him not to write off the trust’s bid in favour of a potential new investor.
She welcomed the news of the Football League’s intervention.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘It is fantastic news.
‘It’s proof that not only is the trust bid the best ethical choice but also the best financial choice.
‘They have put a good business plan together and they are financially viable.’
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock added: ‘It shows the Football League has had enough.
‘Trevor Birch now needs to move this along and see the deal done.’
Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘I have always said the trust is the best long-term future for the club because it means it’s owned by Pompey supporters.’
Mr Birch last night issued a short statement saying: ‘We note the Football League board’s statement and will consider its implications.’
As reported in The News, Keith Harris, of investment bankers Seymour Pierce, was fronting a bid alongside Pascal Najdai, deputy chairman of investment bank AIAK Group, and professional investor Alan Hitchins.
He confirmed he would have been Pompey chairman had his takeover bid come to fruition.
Former Swansea City chairman Steve Hamer would have joined as managing director and former Pompey director John Redgate would have been chief financial officer, completing the senior management team.
Pompey administrators PKF said all along that the trust was still the preferred bidders, despite the emergence of Mr Harris’ bid.
And another ace that the trust held was the fact that property developer Stuart Robinson owns three-quarters of the land surrounding the ground and will only deal with the trust.
Iain McInnes, proposed Pompey chairman under trust ownership, told The News last night that Fratton Park land owner Mr Robinson is firmly part of the trust’s bid.
He said: ‘We had the hiccup in court but we couldn’t see a sensible way of offering Portsmouth Football Club a future that was long lasting without having the opportunity to have the land around the ground.
‘I spoke to Stuart and he said he is part of the trust bid. He is interested in the trust and wants our deal to go through. While we are not using the trust as a missile, you cannot have a football club without a car park.
‘He wants to remain part of it (the bid) and has no interest to be a part of anyone else’s bid.’
Mr McInnes added high-net worth individuals backing the trust’s bid have pumped more than £1m into the club to keep it afloat.
But they would stand to never see that again had Mr Harris taken control.
He added: ‘Not one penny of that is refundable. I have supported this club for 52 years and the most important thing is that the club survives and prospers.’
Before his late bid was scuppered, Mr Harris said: ‘We will not be carrying forward any legacy issues associated with the recent past. We will be starting with a financial clean sheet.’
‘We have the people with the ability to achieve solid progress over the next few years and bring much-needed stability to the club.
‘No one on the new team underestimates the scale of the task that lies ahead. We understand, of course, that the fans, the commercial partners and the staff will address these over the immediate period ahead.’