x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Fahim wants to help the fans take control of Portsmouth

The executive chairman Sulaiman al Fahim is prepared to hand over his shares in the club to their supporters trust.

The future of Portsmouth would be best served under fans ownership, according to executive chairman Sulaiman al Fahim who is prepared to hand over his shares in the club to their supporters trust. Al Fahim, the Emirati who is on the board of Hydra Properties and is a former chief executive of the company, sold most of his shares in the club to Ali al Faraj, the Saudi, and will give the rest to the Pompey Supporters Trust

"Pompey are the only club in Portsmouth and the team is incredibly important to supporters. They have to own it and I will help them; in fact I've already held private discussions on their behalf," he said. "I came up with the idea of gifting them my shares about three months ago. The supporters need more votes and power in the club so I want to give them my 10 per cent holding and then help them generate additional funding to secure extra shares."

Having changed hands three times already this season, Portsmouth remain perilously close to becoming England's first Premier League club to enter administration. The ongoing ownership merry-go-round has only exasperated financial limitations: the club has failed to pay its players on four separate occasions in the last three months, former owner Sacha Gaydamak was due to receive a £9million (Dh52.8m) loan payment yesterday and a winding-up order from HM Revenue and Customs is due to be heard this month.

With al Faraj yet to inject capital, al Fahim said the time has come for the club's fans to have a say. He said: "There are financial institutions who are willing to lend the fans money to buy more shares. I have assigned a company called Intrust to facilitate a smooth transaction; they will transfer my shares to the Pompey Trust and then help secure further shares." Having had their transfer embargo lifted by the Premier League last week, Pompey instantly cashed in by selling Younes Kab-oul back to Tottenham for £5m. Al Fahim, who said the Kaboul fee will serve the club's tax debt and prevent immediate closure, insisted Portsmouth's financial position was not as severe as outsiders believe.

"I don't think we are at administration level yet; other Premier League clubs have far more debt," he said. "The team has a lot of money in it in terms of value. The club may be poor in cash but it has money and assets and there are no bank loans. The debt lies with football creditors, other clubs, tax, Revenue and Customs and share holders. But the current regime is willing to work with new investors and there are interested parties, aside from the fans. Someone will invest."

The Gaydamak issue remains crucial. When al Faraj bought the club, Gaydamak retained ownership of land adjacent to Fratton Park which is key to redeveloping the stadium. That land, if Portsmouth can repay Gaydamak's loans, can be bought for £4.5m. It is an essential purchase, according to al Fahim, who added: "Any money raised by the Pompey Trust will go towards supporting the new stadium proposal."

emegson@thenational.ae