By SJ Maskell
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Anger on the streets in Pompey, players refusing to leave the club, old creditors resurfacing ready to drag the ship into the deep - it is time to take hold of the flood of events and seize the moment if fans are ever going to pull the club clear of the storm.
One thing is clear, what is happening at the club, including the alienation of fans, is the result of contempt. Contempt from those that have milked the club of everything it once was; who have used fans as a way of perpetuating their profits with no thought of offering a return.
Well, enough is enough.
Enough of the manipulations of debt collectors. Enough of the millstone of debentures hung around the neck of the club by people who have made a foolish ‘investment’ and don’t want to take their losses. Enough of the milking of our loyalty to Pompey and all that it means.
Many fans are now willing to see the club liquidated rather than let Balram Chainrai, Levi Kushnir and businessmen like them continue to squeeze money out of the remains of PFC. Plan B for a Phoenix club never has seemed more attractive – a case argued with passion here .
And be clear on this, the man that has put us hovering on the brink is Balram Chainrai. There is no point any longer harping back to Gaydamak, Al Fahim and the like. There is no mileage hurling abuse at David Lampitt, Peter Storrie, Harry Redknapp or even Andrew Andronikou. The other members of the Al Faraj consortium have exited leaving Chainrai and Kushnir holding the baby. It is Chainrai and Kushnir’s Portpin that has spent the last two years re-assigning their debt to Pompey’s assets. It is the debenture that they hold now that is making the club unsellable to anyone but another debt collector.
It is even too late to blame the Football League. At least they saw off Cala.
Pompey has been raised as an issue by MP Penny Mordaunt at Prime Minister’s question Time on Wednesday (1 February). The Prime Minister responded with support suggesting there is a need for fans to be involved in ownership of the club. This follows on from a statement in the Commons by sports’ Minister, Hugh Robertson, outlining three principals that the Government had put to the Football Authorities: The first was that fans should be ‘better informed about a club’s activities—for example, its financial standing, particularly, and the identity of its owners. Secondly, supporters ought to be represented or consulted in the club’s decision making…Thirdly, supporter and supporter-run groups ought to have a formal share or ownership in their club.’ He expects the Football Authorities to respond by the end of February and to co-operate with a licensing scheme for Football Clubs ‘where much more robust rules around financial sustainability, fit and proper persons and directors are laid out. We see that licensing model as the appropriate vehicle for greater supporter representation at football clubs.’ The Football Authorities are expected to respond by the end of the month.
Too late for Pompey, but the tide is turning against the usurers in Football. The principal coming to the fore now is that fans should have a say in the governance of their clubs.
The same thing is happening across football as a whole as alienated fans fight greedy owners – Leeds, Darlington, Plymouth, Wrexham and many more. Their stories are legion.
But this is our club, our City, part of our identity.
So where does that leave us as Pompey fans? (Usual black humour aside).
It leaves us with the opportunity to make a difference to football in this country. Whether it’s Plan B or a brand new owner with the right principles we need to make our voice heard. We need to push for the right to a say in Portsmouth Football Club. We need to use every avenue open to us. We need to make our story heard.
Some are for direct action, we should be clear who we are directing this at and that is Chainrai and Kushnir. Some are for negotiation. We should be pushing for that too, via the government, the football league and the club itself – and above all with any potential owners as the Supporters’ Trust is doing. Some are for showing the passion of our support for our manager and our players, our team by ‘Packing the Park’. Some will not go to the Park until the leeches are gone. Some are calling for Plan B – and we should prepare for that as a last resort, most would add. All these actions add to the pressure on the men to blame in one way or another.
Pompey’s 12th Man website was set up to collate details of all supporters in one place, as an information sharing vehicle and as a show of strength. It is not intended to replace other fan groups or usurp the actions of others but to facilitate swift communications in the event of the need to mobilise the fan base. The advent of Plan B itself will require rapid response to ensure the continuity of football in the City. Support for the 12th Man initiative extends across the majority of fans’ groups in the Fans Conference.
The last thing we should do is stay quiet. The time for waiting and hoping whilst grumbling amongst ourselves is over. The time for giving others ‘a chance’ is gone. It is down to us. Above all we need to make sure every single football fan knows where to lay the blame for how we have ended up. We should make sure that no one is left in any doubt of the destruction the debt collectors have left in their wake by telling our story at every opportunity.
And we should do it Loud and Proud in the Pompey manner - at home, at Fratton Park this Saturday. Inside or out.
Balram Chainrai – you have ruined what we had. If you are a man of honour you need to hold up your hands and concede. There is nothing left in Portsmouth Football Club for you but shame – we will make sure of that.
The views of SJ Maskell are their own. They do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of pompey-fans.com
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