'Without Fratton Park, Portsmouth would have probably disappeared': How dangerously close the Blues came to losing their iconic 122-year-old home
Portpin’s fixed charge on Fratton Park threatened to separate Pompey from their home of 122 years.
Subsequently, in April 2013, administrator Trevor Birch took the argument to the High Court, seeking the charge to be released so the ground could be sold at the market rate of £3m to the supporters.
Furthermore, the process was tied into a 10-acre site around Fratton Park which was purchased for approximately £3m by Trust ally, Stuart Robinson, after the land’s owner, Miland Development 2004 Ltd, had entered administration.
In the 2020 book Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart, former Trust chairman and club board member Ashley Brown details how close Pompey came to losing Fratton Park.
Today a Tesco Extra superstore stands on the area adjacent to the football club, yet the partnership with Bishop’s Waltham-based property developer Robinson also considerably benefitted the Blues.
‘Balram Chainrai had a charge over Fratton Park, a questionable charge to be honest,’ Brown told Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart.
‘He wanted £17.4m for Fratton Park, which he claimed he was owed, while we offered £2.75m based on multiple professional valuations. He then offered to rent it at £100,000 a month, that’s £1.2m a year.
‘Generally, a football club without a ground means you are nothing. No football fan wants to groundshare, not in this country. If you end up with your stadium in the wrong person’s hands, they have you held to ransom.
‘One of the earliest examples is Brighton, whose majority shareholder, Bill Archer, sold the Goldstone Ground for use as land to build a retail park.
‘They had nowhere to go, groundsharing with Gillingham for two seasons before moving into the Withdean Stadium, which has got to be one of the worst Football League grounds you could ever visit.
‘Their fortunes have turned around, but similar versions have happened repeatedly across the country, with people paying huge rents when clubs are separated from grounds.
‘In terms of ourselves, I’ve seen people lambast Stuart Robinson and the money he made out of the Tesco deal, but the reality is, if it hadn’t been for him, Pompey would have probably disappeared.
‘Should we have managed to raise another £2-3m, we’d have bought that land and made money out of Tesco, like Stuart managed to, but we didn’t.
‘We spoke to a number of different property partners and concluded most of them were there to rip us off, while, on the borrowing front, people weren’t willing to lend us that kind of money at a sensible rate.
‘We ended up with Stuart, who wasn’t always the easiest person to work with, but without him the football club probably wouldn’t be here.
‘Instead, he lent us £1.5m along with £1.45m from the council. We had an issue paying up front for Fratton Park and the initial cash flow, so needed those two loans, otherwise we couldn’t have finalised the deal.
‘In the Pompey story, something not often talked about is the historic action of a Portsmouth City Council planner, who ensured land around the ground was protected.
‘What that meant was when the club was in its dire administration, the one thing stopping a major developer coming in and building a bigger Tesco or hotel was that legislation. It fended off the vultures and a number of parties made enquiries to the council.
‘It also meant we received £3m from that Tesco deal, simply because somebody built a supermarket on land we didn’t own. That’s a pretty good deal in my mind.
‘As part of the overall agreement, we had to confirm to the council we were comfortable for the development to take place.
‘We also received land behind the North Stand and an extra piece behind the Fratton End, which was calculated on the basis on how much space we required should we ever desire a cantilever second tier.
‘We paid Stuart’s loan back within a year, at a lower interest rate than the council’s!’
Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart is available from Waterstone’s, Pompey’s club shop and Amazon.
Alternatively, contact [email protected] for copies autographed by those featured in the books.
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