Balram Chainrai – The ‘white knight’ once again taking centre stage in Portsmouth tale

Approaching the film’s halfway point, the headline act finally occupied centre stage.

Saturday, 25th May 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Saturday, 25th May 2019, 9:03 pm
Balram Chainrai, a two-time Pompey owners, features in new film 'Our Club'. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Balram Chainrai, a two-time Pompey owners, features in new film 'Our Club'. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

‘Actually, I would consider myself a white knight, trying to save the club from going into administration,’ uttered Balram Chainrai upon the long-awaited entrance.

‘We had no choice, when we were not receiving our money back, to take over the club by default.

‘When I saw that there was no way for me to have the funds returned to me as per contract, I had to step in and try to secure my position.’

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Delving into the events of February 2010, the Hong Kong money lender reflected on the machinations behind initially seizing Pompey’s iron throne from Ali Al Faraj.

The self-styled ‘white knight’, however, put the Blues into administration 23 days later, ensuring their dubious claim as the first club in Premier League history to suffer such a fate.

Nonetheless, Chainrai represents a crucial voice during 89 minutes of impressive scrutiny, so comprehensively delivered by new film ‘Our Club’.

Of those 35 people interviewed during painstaking research by Zanda Films pair Barney Fox and Remy Martin, securing time with the controversial ex-Pompey owner represents the biggest coup.

It was Portpin, the company belonging to Chainrai and Levi Kushnir, which locked horns with supporters at the High Court in the battle to wrestle back control in April 2013.

Now the fascinating testimony of this former foe is included in the long-awaited documentary released this month.

‘We want to thank Mark Mudie for organising that one,’ said director Fox.

‘The feelers were put out to say we wanted to have a conversation with Balram Chainrai – in a very non-threatening way.

‘We don’t come with big broadcaster tags, we are filmmakers trying to understand a story. What you explain to people is that this is what we are trying to do.

‘We are extremely unbiased, I have always led by saying I am not a Pompey fan, which is very unthreatening to the other side.

‘You just say “I want to talk” and that's what you do, you ask the questions and let those individuals talk.

‘Then the editing responsibility is not to take anything out of context, you lay it down.

‘Chainrai actually gave a really good account of himself, along with Peter Storrie.

‘Both were very, very willing to come forward. Once we made contact, it was arranged within a number of days and weeks.

‘Whatever personal gripes people have with them, I think credit where credit is due, they came forth and decided to go on the record. Fair play to them.

‘I met Chainrai in the December and the whole thing was a bit surreal. We were asked to carry out this interview in a hotel restaurant.

‘Afterwards, he actually offered to take me to an Arsenal game, but I turned it down. I didn’t really want that getting out, but can tell that story now!

‘He was very forthcoming, there was certainly no hiding, he answered all of my questions and was very honest with me.

‘Fair play to the guy, I totally hold my hands up to him, because he didn’t have to invite us over and partake in this.

‘It was vital we spoke to Balram Chainrai, you have to, the legitimacy of this film is the fact we have the different voices, we had to have that.

‘We could not come in and produce an all-out, one-sided story about how the fans got together and saved the club – that’s not how what it was.

‘It would have been a misrepresentation of what actually happened.’

Mudie, who has also been publicly praised by executive producer Colin Farmery for opening doors to enable the Chainrai interview, is another who appears in ‘Our Club’.

However, the former Quay and Express FM contributor was not present at the film’s launch earlier this month at the No. 6 Cinema, in the Historic Dockyard.

The event was, though, attended by many familiar faces, including Iain McInnes, Guy Whittingham, Mark Catlin, Ashley Brown, Kev McCormack, Mark Trapani and Mick Williams.

Also present was Bob Beech, a founder of SOS Pompey, who was impressed with the film.

Beech added: ‘I thought it was very good, with a poignant ending captured fantastically well.

‘There wasn't a dry eye in the house and it captured the emotion of Mark Trapani and Iain McInnes brilliantly.

‘I told Barney afterwards: “Please don’t take this the wrong way, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be!”.

‘I know that’s a back-handed compliment, but I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like. I was quite impressed, to be honest.

‘It told the whole story, including the awful way club employees were let go, while I think that’s the first time the job SOS Pompey did has been properly acknowledged.

‘And you couldn’t tell that story without Chainrai being in it, I said that from day one.

‘You needed him in there, it’s an important part of the analysis. He had to be there.

‘Chainrai said all the things I thought he would. Basically the line he went along was “It wasn’t me, Guv”.

‘Mind you, that magical £17m figure he claims he is owed kept cropping up every five minutes, which was quite amusing.

‘He didn’t say anything I wouldn't have expected him to say – although I still think he’s wrong!

‘Chainrai can protest as much as he likes. There’s a saying we used during the campaign – those that know, know.

‘Thankfully, we’ve cleansed the club of them now. We can look forward.’

Since the premiere, the first of three scheduled public showings took place on Wednesday evening.

The No. 6 Cinema will also show the film on Wednesday, May 29, while it is then booked in for St Vincent College, Gosport, on June 13.

The team behind ‘Our Club’ are also seeking a downloadable version, with potentially a DVD release in the pipeline.

Fox added: ‘I hope we produced a film which demonstrates the narrative and story of what actually happened.

‘The film proves no-one else was going to come forth for Pompey – and certainly if they were it was going to be a game of Russian roulette.

‘Hopefully the audience sees it wasn’t all perfect, it wasn't everybody linking arms and singing Kumbaya together, there were many different voices, not always in support for this.

‘But, ultimately, the fans and community won out and bought their football club.’