Shadow minister asks how Antonov took over Pompey

Vladimir Antonov at Westminster Magistrates in London for his extradition hearing
Vladimir Antonov at Westminster Magistrates in London for his extradition hearing
Brandon Haunstrup. Picture: Joe Pepler

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The shadow sports minister has questioned how former Portsmouth owner Vladimir Antonov was allowed to take over the club as the spectre of administration looms again for the south-coast side.

Clive Efford MP says warnings about the London-based Russian businessman’s bank by the Financial Services Authority were not heeded and he was given the go-ahead by the Football League.

Efford, Labour’s spokesman on sport, said: ‘If these concerns about Antonov were there on the FSA website then why were these not taken up by the football authorities?’

Antonov bought Pompey in June but his holding company Convers Sports Initiatives went into administration in November. Now the club itself is poised to go into administration on Friday for a second time in two years, triggering a 10-point deduction.

Efford told a Parliamentary debate on football governance last week that the problems at Portsmouth were an example of where things ‘are going horribly wrong in our game’.

He added: ‘Mr Antonov’s bank, Bankas Snoras applied in 2006 to operate banks in the UK, but was turned down by the Financial Services Authority. It was suggested that the bank had repeatedly given incomplete and inaccurate answers to the FSA. The FSA’s website states: “Bankas Snoras was likely to fail to deal with the FSA in an open and co-operative way.”

‘Yet in 2011, Mr Antonov was allowed to take over Portsmouth football club. If the FSA had that degree of concern about the financial matters of this individual, it must have been written large for others to ask questions about his suitability to own one of our large football clubs.

‘Such a case highlights our concerns that due diligence is not taking place and that there are not sufficient fit and proper person tests. Something should have alerted the Football League or the FA to that person’s history, and they should have considered whether the purchase was in the best interests of the club or the game.’

Efford said football’s authorities needed to learn from what had happened.

The Football League defended their owners’ and directors’ test after Antonov stepped down in November. It was also pointed out that the Swedish government had given the London-based Russian businessman to invest in car manufacturer Saab, and that the FSA had raised questions about the bank but not him personally.