ON THIS DAY: Story of Pompey’s survival

Members of the Pompey Supporters' Trust at The Rolls Building in London. Picture: Sarah Standing (13980-8286)
Members of the Pompey Supporters' Trust at The Rolls Building in London. Picture: Sarah Standing (13980-8286)
Pompey new-boy Louis Dennis. Picture: Joe Pepler

Non-league path’s helped Pompey new boy 

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Five years ago today, Pompey emerged from the High Court victorious.

Community ownership was secured and liquidation foiled on April 10, 2013. Here we revisit the story in the words of some of the major players...
Ian Peach harbours a regret. ‘I should have had community share number one, instead I gave my dad that honour,’ he joked. 
The 49-year-old can afford to smile, he was part of a winning team, the ‘band of brothers’ as he so fittingly labels them.

Administrator Trevor Birch. Picture: Sarah Standing (13980-8247)

Administrator Trevor Birch. Picture: Sarah Standing (13980-8247)

In December 2012, Pompey came within hours of liquidation. The testimony of those who peered into the abyss and the existence of documents and email trails emphatically crush any notion of melodrama.

It was a doomsday scenario vanquished through the intervention of a handful of fans – partnered by the Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s successful community share issue to wrestle back ownership of the club.

On Saturday, December 17, 2016, those fans’ crucial contribution was immortalised upon Fratton Park’s North Stand with the unveiling of the Trust Shareholder Wall of Fame.

Peach, of course, is featured among the seven-board list. While a partner at Verisona Law in January 2012, the lawyer volunteered his services to oversee the drive for shares and aid the Trust’s dogged pursuit of ownership.

Effectively, we were asking Pompey fans to make a commitment to buy something they hadn’t seen. You would hardly do that when buying a car or house, would you?

Ian Peach

A South Stand season-ticket holder, he said: ‘There are a lot of people out there who don’t believe liquidation would have happened, people who sat on the sidelines and sniped – and continue to do so.

‘Take it from someone there at the coalface, liquidation was a stark reality and we were looking at alternative options should the unthinkable happen. There was a Plan B.

‘I believe liquidation could have happened on one particular day had it not been for part of the band of brothers putting hands into their pockets and agreeing to make funds available to the administrator.

‘That is why it was so important the fans came together and we were able to prove to Trevor Birch we actually had funds and a credible bid.

Ian Peach. Picture: Sarah Standing (13980-3781)

Ian Peach. Picture: Sarah Standing (13980-3781)

‘If those pledges hadn’t been made and, ultimately, shares bought, then we would not have been in a position, as potential buyers of the club, to convince the administrator.

‘Effectively, we were asking Pompey fans to make a commitment to buy something they hadn’t seen. You would hardly do that when buying a car or house, would you?

‘But can you imagine removing Portsmouth Football Club from this city? It’s incomprehensible. It remains in existence, though, and the Wall of Fame is recognition of the part played by so many.’

Funded by Trust board member and club president Eric Colborn, the Wall of Fame lists 2,460 shareholders.

Members of the Trust show their support. Picture: Sarah Standing (124048-7516)

Members of the Trust show their support. Picture: Sarah Standing (124048-7516)

Also included are the 16 presidents, while there is recognition for Hermann Hreidarsson, whose Icelandic team IBV formed the opposition in an April 2013 fixture to raise vital funds for the Trust.

Community ownership was secured at the High Court on April 10, 2013, yet five months earlier future Blues chairman Iain McInnes was involved in fending off liquidation.

Along with Mick Williams, John Kirk, Chris Moth, John Partridge and Ken Terry, among others, McInnes prevented December 2012 being inscribed on Pompey’s tombstone.

McInnes said: ‘At that time our case to the administrators for community ownership was getting stronger, while they were having more and more doubts about Balram Chainrai.

‘In early December, I was in the London offices of the Queen’s Counsel we were using when I received a call from Trevor Birch.

‘Apparently, the only way he could carry the club through December and January was for us to put in a certain amount of funding to cover losses.

From left: Iain McInnes, Ashley Brown and Eric Coleborn at the unveiling of the Wall of Fame at Fratton Park in 2016. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (161361-7)

From left: Iain McInnes, Ashley Brown and Eric Coleborn at the unveiling of the Wall of Fame at Fratton Park in 2016. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (161361-7)

‘For a business to carry on in administration it needs cash flow – and he needed it from us. If we had said we couldn’t do it, the club would have gone into liquidation that same day.

‘A small group of us had to make the decision for the funds to come from us. We continued to cover losses right until the court case. Liquidation was that close – and that threat must have happened four or five times.’

That group, whose money in Verisona’s Escrow account was diverted to prevent Pompey’s liquidation, also contained Williams.

The former board member said: ‘Had we not stepped in and underwritten those losses he would have closed Pompey down. We were the only knight in shining armour, there was nobody else.

‘There were lots of people tyre-kicking and pretending but we were the only ones who actually put money on the table to Trevor Birch.

‘I spoke to lots of people supposedly interested, like Tom Lever and Brett Da Bank. Brian Howe was a mate of an old school friend of mine and I talked to him on the phone plenty.

‘Joseph Cala was on a call for 40 minutes, Laurence Bassini told me he had £12m to put in tomorrow, then a few weeks later was banned from a position of authority with any Football League club for three years.

‘Sulaiman Al Fahim approached us and said he was trying to get the money over but nothing happened. At that time it was really difficult to know who you could trust.’

The first community share was issued in the name of Rod Peach, the second Ian Peach – and now there is a permanent Fratton Park reminder of the efforts of them and the other band of brothers.

Peach added: ‘What we achieved is remarkable and I’m massively proud. Sadly, some of those people who helped save the club are no longer with us, while I’m sure others paid a personal price in different ways.

‘We were all part of the battle to save a very special football club.’