Football League ensure Pompey ownership battle goes into extra time

Iain McInnes
Iain McInnes
A fixed-odds gambling machine Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

NEWS COMMENT: A move in the right direction but still not a win for all

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And so the wait goes on.

The Football League are still not satisfied by all aspects of both tabled bids for Pompey, hence the latest deadline shift.

At least these days, those running football are being more thorough in their scrutiny of potential owners.

There was a time when you didn’t even have to meet them in person to take over a football club in this country, as Blues fans well know.

As it stands, the Football League have minor concerns over Portpin and the Trust – or ‘wrinkles’ as one source has described it.

Administrators PKF believe both parties could complete a deal in their own ways to the point of having issued sales and purchase agreements to the pair more than two weeks ago.

However, the Football League and Professional Footballers’ Association must also be satisfied with the business plans on offer.

Cue the latest sticking point and dismantling of what was once seen as an immovable deadline.

It has been done entirely to help the Football League, rather than allowing PKF to reap extra fees.

The fact Sulaiman Al Fahim has subsequently also bought himself more time is also an irrelevance.

The main two parties are still well ahead of any others sniffing around – they now just need to reach agreement with the Football League.

As I understand it, the Football League’s main issue with the Trust centres on guaranteeing football creditors will be paid.

Compromise agreements account for £8.5m over four years, with around £8m still due in parachute payments over the next two years.

In addition, £3.4m – the sum from August’s parachute payments – is currently in the coffers waiting to be handed over to the next owner.

Certainly a large-enough carrot to tempt Portpin to renounce their decision to walk away and return.

Anyhow, the Football League ideally require a bank guarantee or company guarantee to convince them the football creditors will receive all of their money,

As a brand new company, the Trust are certainly in no position to be able to fulfil such criteria.

The Trust are arguing the validity of such a requirement when it is not even their debt they are expected to pay.

The Football League’s stance – should it remain – would effectively puncture the chances of any others across the country also attempting to become a community club.

This is the latest hurdle for the Trust, having safely negotiated others to remain firmly in the race for Pompey. Then there is Portpin, who on Thursday released the latest statement attempting to discredit the Trust.

The irony is they are also still not in a position to take over having not satisfied the Football League.

Not so long ago, Portpin were describing themselves ‘a last resort’, ready to step in to prevent liquidation if there was no other interest.

Well, despite the Trust being in advanced pursuit, Portpin remain, tackling them head-on in a fight.

Meanwhile, the issue of their charge over Fratton Park is holding them up with the Football League, just as it continues to inhibit the football club.

Trevor Birch has the power to go to the courts to force them to relinquish their hold if he believes a realistic and fair valuation has been lodged.

The Trust have employed three professional independent valuers to put a price on Fratton Park’s worth. They have come back with figures in and around the £2.75m they originally offered back in June.

Portpin, however, believe it is worth considerably more, yet have not had the ground valued.

In turn, the Football League remain unsure over the level of debt Portpin will be taking over should that particular bid be successful.

League chiefs this summer stipulated only £5m of the claimed £18.6m Portpin debt could be transferred via their charge on Fratton Park.

As it stands, they are still none the wiser regarding how much of that will go into newco. As a result, the League feel they cannot yet give them membership.

Of course, this will all head to the courts if the issue is not resolved and the Trust emerge as the new owners of the club.

If it does, the Trust’s independent valuers will be rolled out to back up their valuation.

Portpin, meanwhile, will unveil bids they have received directly which they can claim represent genuine market value.

This may include Al Fahim, who it is believed has already met Balram Chainrai. Laurence Bassini is also understood to have long been negotiating directly with Portpin, via mutual associate Andrew Andronikou.

Whether these include outright bids for the charge or an annual rent remains to be seen.

However, it is known that Portpin have long been seeking around £1.2m in annual rent, a figure once quoted to the Trust.

Inevitably, the moving back of the deadline also allows other interested parties more opportunity to come to the table.

Bassini has shown long-term interest, several other parties are also on the fringes. Then there is Al Fahim. It is understood on Thursday, September 6 he was advised by administrators that proof of funds needed to be seen in a British bank to satisfy them over his bid.

That has still not occurred. As a result, in the eyes of PKF, he has still not shown any reason to have a credible bid.

So it all rumbles on, the wait continues – and expect plenty more twists and turns still to come.