By Paul Nicholson
May 2 – The story of Portsmouth Football Club has been more of a rollercoaster ride than a fairy tale in recent seasons. The club plummeted from the Premier League in 2010, sinking to Division 2 by 2014. During this time they went bust, changed owners and were rescued by fans. Now, despite a loyal and sizeable support, the club is struggling to keep its Fratton Park stadium open. But there looks like there could be a happy ending in sight.
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner is reportedly poised to buy the club for £5.7 million and will pump in a further £10 million if the deal goes through.
Portsmouth need £4.1 million to avoid sanctions and keep Fratton Park open for safety reasons. But the club has only £900,000 for this work.
“A continuing lack of full compliance without appropriate agreement from Portsmouth City Council could reduce capacity,” said the club in a statement.
“Currently there remains circa £900,000 in the escrow account. It is likely that all of this sum will be committed to a first phase Works Programme to be undertaken from May 2017 and into the 2017-2018 season.
“We wish to clarify that no further financial sums are currently available, or budgeted for, beyond what remains in the escrow account.”
The stage is set for a dramatic Hollywood-style rescue and Eisner is expected to ride into the Portsmouth Guildhall on Thursday to present his bid through his Tornante investment group.
The Portsmouth Supporters Trust (PST) – whose members paid £1,000 per share to save the club and collectively own 48% of its shares – will receive their money back if they accept the deal.
Portsmouth have started the long haul back to the Premier League with promotion to Division 1 this season. But to take the next rehabilitative steps the club and its supporters know that they need more funding.
As part of those plans the PST would be removed from the man board of the club but be repositioned on a ‘heritage’ board that would safeguard the club’s name, badge and colours, as well as be involved in any future plans to move to a new stadium up to 15 miles from Fratton Park – doubtless an emotional move but one that would provide increased commercial opportunity for the club.
Eisner will be joining what is becoming a football revolution on England’s south coast. Portsmouth’s fiercest rivals Southampton are now well established as a top half Premier League club and have ambition to push on. Further west Bournemouth have showed again that they are Premier League material, while to the east of Portsmouth, Brighton have won promotion to the Premier League for the first time. Even Eastleigh in the National League had an FA Cup run that saw them eventually knocked out by Championship side Brentford.
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