Pompey fans given new court date for takeover decision

fratton parkBy Andrew Warshaw
March 6 - The future of Portsmouth, the stricken English club locked in administration for over a year with debts of about £60m, could finally be resolved next month - to the relief of the fans' consortium hoping to take over.

After a succession of postponements, a date of April 10 or 11 has been set for administrators PKF to attend the High Court in an attempt to force through the sale of the club's stadium.

If a judge rules in the administrators' favour then the Pompey Supporters' Trust, who have already been approved by the Football League as well as the club's creditors as preferred bidders in what would be one of football's biggest ever fan buyouts, can proceed with their takeover.

"As is often the case in such situations, we are unlikely to get confirmation of the exact date from the court until a few days prior to the hearing," said a statement from the administrators.

Winners of the FA Cup only five years ago, Portsmouth face the humiliation of a second successive relegation that would see them plummet into the fourth and lowest tier of the professional game in England.

The PST's takeover is conditional on the group taking control of the club's evocative but now crumbling Fratton Park ground.

Former owner Balram Chainrai believes he is owed £12m by Pompey and holds the stadium as security through his company Portpin, via a fixed charge. The PST says it is worth far less and has offered the Hong Kong-based businessman £3m.

To make matters worse, the Football League have warned the club must exit administration before the end of this season or face expulsion.

The court hearing is all about working out the value of Fratton Park. The initial hearing in December was postponed because of issues between the property partner working with the Supporters' Trust and PKF.

Three further hearings have been adjourned, the most recent on February 14 because of a problem with the Professional Footballers' Association. But all parties are now ready to go to court, despite a late bid by football financier Keith Harris. That led to the Football League reiterating that the only offer it would consider was that of the PST.

Last week Portsmouth City Council approved a bridging loan to the PST of £1.45m which it will pay back at a rate of 5%. But Harris believes his consortium put forward the most realistic package to secure the club's long-term future.

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