Never mind fit and proper, does Ali al Faraj even exist?

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QUESTIONS have been asked in Parliament about whether former Pompey owner Ali al Faraj ever existed.

Al Faraj - nicknamed Al Mirage because no-one, including the club's directors, had ever seen him – took the club over from Sulaiman Al Fahim in October last year.

But the money to buy the club had come from Balram Chainrai's Portpin, and when al-Faraj couldn't make his repayments, Mr Chainrai effectively took control of the club.

It soon became apparent that the Premier League, which asks all prospective club owners to undergo a fit and proper persons test, had never met al-Faraj in person.

John Mann, a backbench Labour MP, demanded answers from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport about how this was allowed to happen.

He said: 'We need to know whether Mr Ali al Faraj, once owner of Portsmouth, actually exists.

'That would be a good question for the culture, media and sport committee to ask.

'If he does, by what process was that man, who some claim does not even exist, deemed a fit and proper person to own a premier league football club, and who is he?'

The question was formed as part of a 30-minute debate on football governance in England and Wales, mainly focusing on how football clubs are able to get to the point where they are either liquidated or held to ransom by their owners.

Mr Mann referred to the Deloitte report, which found that, in 2008-09, of the 44 premier league and championship clubs, only eight had a pre-tax profit, a majority did not have positive assets and only two had no debt.

He added: 'That is extraordinary considering the growth and success in revenues.

'However, that has been increasingly squeezed out by players' wages and agents' fees.'

A select committee is due to investigate the report's findings in the new year.

Responding, Hugh Robertson, the parliamentary under secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, made no promise to investigate the existence of Mr al Faraj.

Instead, he said he hoped the fit and proper person test would be examined as part of the select committee's investigation.

He added: 'The premier league has made some welcome introductions and tightened up its rules this year, as too has the Football League.

However, I agree entirely that there is a great deal more to be done.'