Portsmouth fans fight to save Fratton Park

“We will never die!” was the chant which echoed down the line as fans marched to save Portsmouth football club from closure. With only days to go before the deadline for liquidation passes, the fans marched in hope that out of the club’s crisis a historical opportunity for fan ownership could arise.

The club’s administrator, Trevor Birch, claims that unless a buyer comes forward by 10 August Fratton Park will shut its doors and there will be no more football in the city. Currently there are two rival bids. One is from Portpin, run by former owner Balram Chanrai, who is seeking a repayment of his £19 million investment.

The other is from the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust, which this week announced its intention to table a £3 million bid, with a local businessman to be installed as a chairman, backed by a loan taken from the city council to purchase Fratton Park.

The trust propose a share scheme for fans, however the bid proposal claims that five ‘fans’ who have donated ‘five figure sums’ will become associate directors, while one ‘fan’, local businessman Iain McInnes, will become chairman by virtue of a ‘six figure sum’ investment.

Profit motive

The danger with such an approach is that it gives businessmen, who like previous owners will be interested by profit and a short-term return on their investment, a way to buy the club, under the banner of the trust, using supporters’ money and a loan from the taxpayer!

While the crisis at Fratton Park does present a historic opportunity for fans to reclaim the game, it would be a mistake to simply hand control of the club from big business to small business! Rather than creating a board-in-waiting based on investment size, the trust should lay out a plan for full fan ownership and management.

The trust should be run democratically, with season ticket holders and trust members voting for the board. Trust meetings should be open to all fans who can participate in re-building the club, the team and the future of football in the city of Portsmouth.

Ben Norman