By Nick Harris
22 October 2010
Sportingintelligence can reveal that plans for a new Portsmouth football club, AFC Portsmouth, are well advanced and the organisers behind the proposed new club – which would replace the one threatened imminently with liquidation – have already had secret consultations with football governing bodies about where in the football pyramid the new club might start playing.
Pompey’s administrator Andrew Andronikou said this evening he still hopes for a resolution to what is effectively high-stakes brinksmanship between the club and one of its former owners, Sacha Gaydamak. But if no resolution is found and Portsmouth become the first League club since Maidstone in 1992 to go bust, then a phoenix replacement will start playing in the 2011-12 season.
Once source involved in the plans for AFC Portsmouth said the post-liquidation club could start life as high up as in League Two, a prospect that seems extraordinary but could yet be agreed by the Football League and the FA.
The rationale behind such an elevated start, on safety grounds, is that the new Pompey would instantly have a fan base wanting to attend games of more than 10,000 fans per home match, at least. That is bigger than any club currently in the Conference, let alone at a lower level.
The most popular Conference club Luton have an average home crowd of 6,500 this season, and they attract almost double the next biggest popular club Grimsby, on 3,400 fans per home game.
An AFC Portsmouth attracting 15,000 people per home game and a good chunk of that away from home would be a logistical nightmare down in the lower levels of the non-league.
Any move to parachute a new AFCP into League Two would meet with resistance from other non-League clubs but it would be a “real option” for the game’s authorities. There would not be much if any opposition from within the Football League: if Pompey of the Championship do fold, then an extra place in the Championship will open up next season for a club currently in League One, and an extra place in League One will open for a club now in League Two, which will effectively be replaced by AFCP.
Plans for AFCP are advanced enough for a provisional budget already to have been established, “right down to the cost of clothes pegs for drying kit, and paint for doing the lines” according to one source. Tentative inquiries have been made about Portsmouth AFC playing at Havant & Waterlooville’s ground next season, if necessary, while the new club would also explore the option of renting Fratton Park from whoever ended up owning it.
Portsmouth’s woes surged backed into the news this evening when the club released a statement (below, self-explanatory) saying the end was nigh unless a deal between Gaydamak and Balram Chainrai (past and proposed future owner) could be signed. Pompey were the first Premier League club to enter administration when they did so earlier this year.
Portsmouth Football Club is extremely disappointed to report that it has not yet managed to achieve the exit from Administration, despite the extensive efforts of the Football League, NewCo, the Administrators and their various legal advisors.
The process has been extremely complicated and there has been a team of people working night and day to get the deal done. The most difficult aspect has been trying to achieve agreement with Alexandre Gaydamak after the remaining parties have agreed the deal and executed the necessary documents, namely the new owners, the Administrators, the Football League and the creditors.
Unfortunately, despite the new owners fulfilling all the requirements of the Football League and the creditors, and agreeing and signing up to the required terms of the purchase of the club, at the 11th hour the goalposts have been moved by Mr Gaydamak and this has now made the deal impossible to complete.
Put simply, despite being offered full payment for the secured part of his debt in accordance with the financial plan approved by the Football League, this morning Mr Gaydamak has demanded a very significant upfront cash payment in order to allow the deal to proceed by releasing his security.
All this is in spite of his lawyers going to Paris this morning specifically for the purpose of witnessing his signature to the document agreed yesterday.
It is neither in the interests of the club nor its unsecured creditors for such a ransom payment to be made, particularly where the payment is being demanded by one of the authors of the club’s current circumstances.
In addition, and equally importantly, all of the business plans submitted and approved by the Football League would be fundamentally damaged by such a requirement placed on the club by Mr Gaydamak.
We will provide further information as soon as possible.
However, it appears likely that the club will now be closed down and liquidated by the Administrators as they are unable to support the continued trading of the club.
We would like to thank the Football League in particular for their support and assistance through this difficult process.
All other parties had managed to reach agreement.
This has now been undermined by the self-interested actions of one individual. Mr Gaydamak has provided confirmation several times that terms were agreed. However, he has continually changed his position in an attempt to exploit the goodwill of the other parties to the transaction.
By now doing this he has shown complete disregard for the supporters, the club and the City of Portsmouth, who had granted him freedom of the city in 2008.
His earlier comments when the club went into Administration about doing everything possible to save the club’s future do not appear to reflect his current actions.