x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Portsmouth FC gain Emirati owner

The property tycoon Sulaiman al Fahim agrees to purchase the Premier League football club.

Portsmouth teammates celebrate after scoring a goal during a match against West Bromwich Albion in April this year.
Portsmouth teammates celebrate after scoring a goal during a match against West Bromwich Albion in April this year.

ABU DHABI // The property tycoon Sulaiman al Fahim agreed last night to purchase the English football club Portsmouth FC, making it the second Premier League club under Emirati ownership. Mr al Fahim spoke to The National from Rome, where he was attending the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona, minutes after signing the deal with Portsmouth's chief executive, Peter Storrie. He declined to say how much he was paying for the club.

"I'm excited about the club and I've signed the memorandum," he said. "I was involved in the Manchester City purchase, but this one is now mine." Mr al Fahim said he planned to travel to Britain "every weekend" to watch the club next season. He added that he planned to develop the club's youth academy and create a network of relationships with other clubs around the world. He also said he hoped to give talented Emirati players an opportunity to gain experience with Portsmouth.

The club confirmed the deal in a statement on its website and said due diligence would begin next week in the hope of completing the deal as soon as possible. Supporters in the city on England's south coast enthusiastically welcomed the takeover. However, they warned that Mr al Fahim would need to invest heavily in a new stadium and players to keep the club competitive in the Premier League. "It's fantastic news," said Nigel Tressider, the chairman of the official Portsmouth FC supporters club. "He will be welcomed with open arms by the terrific Portsmouth fans.

"I don't think he would have bought the club unless he has enough money to put it on the right track, and that is going to take a lot of money, hundreds of millions of pounds." Mr al Fahim was the frontman for last year's purchase of Manchester City football club by Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), but his role has become increasingly peripheral as Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed has taken charge of more of the club's affairs. However, the experience gave him a taste for involvement in football, and he said the ownership of two competing football clubs by people with a close working relationship would not pose any difficulties.

"Portsmouth and Manchester City are two separate clubs," he said before outlining his plans for Portsmouth. I will develop the football academy there to develop local talent, try to bring in some new players and set up relationships with clubs in Europe, Asia and Africa." Mr Tressider, who runs a pub popular with Portsmouth fans, said he hoped Mr al Fahim would follow the previous owners, Milan Mandaric and Mr Gaydamak, in stopping by his establishment.

"His two predecessors were both very down-to-Earth people and visited my pub a few times," he said. "I hope Mr al Fahim will come to visit us too." tspender@thenational.ae