Fans deliver a loud and clear message to Pompey's owners

They are used to singing their hearts out in support of their beloved team from the stands at Fratton Park.

But on Saturday hundreds of fans marched, sang and chanted as one in an attempt to turn round the club's fortunes off the pitch.

The message to Pompey owner Ali Al Faraj as they marched towards Fratton was clear: Pay up or go.

After a week in which Pompey tried and failed to quash a Premier League transfer ban and winding up petition from the tax man, a crowd of 200 supporters set off from Guildhall Square at 12.45pm to loud chants of 'We want our club back'.

As well as the home-made banners and signs, many held white placards featuring a question mark and the words 'Fit and Proper?' - calling into question the strength of the Premier League's vetting procedures.

With a buzz of excitement in the air, the march continued to meet hundreds of fans who had gathered in Milton Park.

A roar went up as the two sets of protesters met and onwards they went, slightly earlier than planned, to Frogmore Road in front of the club's VIP entrance.

It was still an hour and a half before the match kicked off and the crowd grew as chants of 'You're not fit to run the club' and 'Where's all our money gone?' grew louder and longer.

Lifelong fan and season ticket-holder Gary Butcher was towards the front of the march.

He said: 'We want our club back. Money is killing our club, it's killing football.'

Rod Hirlehey and his wife Christine held a large home-made 'Pay Up Pompey' banner high above the crowd.

'In the last year, our best players have gone and have been replaced by uncertainty. I'm sick of false dawns and broken promises,' said Mr Hirlehey, 62, from Chichester.

He added: 'The club keeps saying "by this date we'll have fixed the problem" but this never happens, things just keep going from bad to worse. There is a lack of confidence in anything that comes out of the club.'

A barrier of club stewards and police held the protesters back just short of the VIP entrance, where 'super fan' John Westwood had organised the handing over of a petition signed by thousands of fans to the club's board.

Shortly before 2pm, chief executive Peter Storrie emerged, receiving a barrage of abuse from fans as he accepted the petition, which was handed over by a legion of young fans chosen to represent the future of the club.

Mr Storrie, who last week appeared in court on a tax evasion charge, was given a frank and frosty reception by the fans.

Wearing his trademark outfit, John Westwood cut a striking figure at the front of the protest.

He said: 'All we want them to do is invest or go and let someone else buy the club.

All we care about is Portsmouth Football Club, we are fed up with the spin coming out of the club.

They say the transfer embargo will be lifted but it remains, they say they will pay off all the money they owe to other clubs but they can't.

'We want people who care about football. I want investors to see the passion of the fans we have. We have the best fans in the world, we deserve the best after all we have put up with.'

Just 10,315 fans attended the match that followed the march - a low turnout even for a FA Cup fixture.

The mutinous mood continued after kick-off as two fans invaded the pitch to make angry gestures towards the directors box after Sunderland scored early in the first half.

Four more fans were arrested after further pitch invasions after John Utaka's second strike sealed Pompey's victory. But overall, police were satisfied with how the protest went.

PC Paul Foley, football intelligence officer at Fratton Park, said: 'Considering the numbers which attended the pre-match protest, all supporters behaved extremely well.'


One of Pompey's most dedicated and mature fans, Joyce Tynan, 77, from Cleveland Road, Southsea, was chosen to hand in petitions to Peter Storrie along with the young fans, representing the history of the club.

Mrs Tynan, who has supported the club since 1946, said: 'I think people are so angry because of the way they are being kept in the dark.

'I handed some petitions to Mr Storrie and asked him what was going to happen with them.

'He told me that he didn't know who was actually in charge and so he didn't know who they were going to be given to.

'It's such a shame that a proud club like this is reduced to such a state of affairs.

'In all my years of supporting Pompey I've never seen it this bad - we had the Pompey SOS in the 1970s but it was a community thing back then.

'I think there will be more protests until people think the club is going in the right direction.

'The problem we risk is people saying things that are unpleasant about the Arabs, I hope it won't come to that again.

'I shall keep going to the games and I want to see what's happening with these protests - but at my age I can't really walk!'


Among many fans wearing the white question mark t-shirts at the protest were David Spiers, 46, and his son also named David, 22, from Littlehampton.

Mr Spiers senior said: 'We think the club have done nothing that they said they were going to do.

'They need to either put the money in or get out and sell to some who can stop the club going bust.'

David Spiers junior said: 'We're proud of the club and we really need something to pick us up.

'We will keep protesting as long as it takes to get some sort of change.'


Veteran Pompey fans Alan Price and John Clark were marching to 'save our historic club'.

Alan, 61, from Paulsgrove, gave up supporting Liverpool to become a Pompey fan when he moved south to join the Royal Navy in 1968.

He said: 'We've come here early to show support to the other people marching, one man cannot do anything but hopefully if we get enough people showing they care, someone will maybe listen to us. All we seem to get is a lot of platitudes, we're fed up hearing the same thing.

'I want to know what's the driving force for the owner's involvement, what's the policy for the future of the club, what's their intention? Is it to drive us in to administration or not?

'I've been all over the world following this small team, I care passionately about what happens to it.'

Asked about joining future protests, Mr Price said: 'Without a doubt, this is just the start now. I think it will get bigger and bigger.'

John, 67, from Gosport, said: 'I would like to see some independent auditors go in to Pompey and go through the books for the last six years to see what has happened.

'A lot of things are not right with the club, I just hope it can come out of all this and not die.

'It doesn't matter if we go down I'll still be here but I can't bear the thought of this historic club not existing any more.'


For Mike Hall, 40, the march was a family affair - his children were among those chosen to hand over the petition to Peter Storrie at the club's VIP entrance.

Paige, 15, Laurence, 13, Rossannah, six and Jasmine, three, were selected for the role to represent the future of the club.

Mr Hall, from Rowner Lane in Gosport, held his three-year-old daughter Jasmine close as he stood at the front of the Pompey protest - pictured above.

He said: 'I'm pleased that we are able to be here and that the kids were able to hand over the petitions.

'The number of people who made the effort to join the protest must give a clear signal to the board that this is it.

'We will be at the games as we go forward and we will protest again until someone comes in to resolve the situation.'