Council leader looks into idea of authority buying Fratton Park

PLAN Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
PLAN Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
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PORTSMOUTH City Council leader Gerald Vernon Jackson says he has held discussions over the possibility of the authority buying Fratton Park.

Cllr Vernon Jackson stressed the council is not in negotiations to buy Pompey’s ground but said he would only look to buy Fratton Park if the club is liquidated.

MOTION Councillor Steve Wemyss

MOTION Councillor Steve Wemyss

Pompey administrator Trevor Birch, former chief executive David Lampitt and members of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust have all discussed the idea with the authority, he said.

Cllr Vernon Jackson said: ‘We have had some discussions about the possibility of buying the ground but I would only do it if the club was going into liquidation.

‘I think a better group of people to buy the ground would be the supporters’ trust so that the fans would own it.

‘If we get a new owner then they would need to own the ground as well as the club.

‘I don’t know where we would find the money from but we have had informal discussions over what would happen if things went really wrong.’

Cllr Vernon Jackson added he was meeting with Trevor Birch today for further talks over the idea.

He said: ‘There are issues with who owns the ground. The important thing is if the club goes into liquidation we have 21 days to register somewhere the club needs to play. If the club goes into liquidation, the ground becomes an asset to the club.’

Meanwhile Portsmouth’s Conservative group has tabled a motion seeking the council to buy Fratton Park.

Conservative group leader Cllr Steve Wemyss claims Fratton Park would be given a ‘void planning use’ if Pompey is liquidated - putting football at risk in the future.

The notion, which was submitted to the council yesterday, states: ‘The city council has long recognised the benefits of Portsmouth Football Club provides to the city in terms of economic stimulus and increased public profile.

‘In the light of that the city council has sought through the recently adopted Portsmouth Plan, to preserve Fratton Park and some of the surrounding land for use as a football stadium by Portsmouth Football Club.

‘However, if Portsmouth Football Club ceases to exist and Fratton Park is in the ownership of someone other than the club, that someone could seek to redevelop Fratton Park for some other purpose on the basis that the policy is void as the council cannot reasonably preserve the land for use by an organisation that does not exist.’

The motion calls on council officers to enter negotiations with Pompey administrator Trevor Birch and the owners of Fratton Park to acquire the freehold of the ground to preserve the use of the ground for a professional football club and ‘potentially providing a degree of liquidity’ to the administrator in his search for a new owner.

Cllr Wemyss added: ‘It’s not about bailing out the club but it’s a happy by-product. It’s to protect from a developer coming in and building on it.

‘If we do go to Plan B there’s a stadium there for Plan B to operate on.’