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Plenty still to ponder at Portsmouth

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Matt Slater | 20:12 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A decade or so ago I spent a year writing about cars for a motoring website. I enjoyed it for a bit - a new car to drive most weekends and foreign trips to warm countries with photogenic roads are reasonable perks - but realised it wasn't for me when I had to update my own reviews of cars that were only "new" in the sense that they had a different stereo and metallic paint was now standard.

This came back to me on Monday when I found myself reporting on a second takeover at Portsmouth Football Club in two months - they've had as many owners as they have points this season - and like the car reviews there are plenty of similarities between the two.

It is still a case of hard chimes for Pompey on and off the pitch. The new owner is a Middle Eastern businessman of whom we know little; the previous owner, Sacha Gaydamak, still has a say on matters; and the only person providing real commentary is the long-standing/suffering chief executive Peter Storrie.

Thankfully, for Pompey fans, there are also differences between the two deals. Let's explore those before returning to the far bigger pile of unanswered questions:

First, Ali Al Faraj, the new new owner of Portsmouth, is a very private person from Saudi Arabia. Sulaiman Al Fahim, the old new owner of Portsmouth, is a publicity addict from Dubai. In regard to their desire for media attention, they are as alike as Greta Garbo and Kerry Katona.

Second, Storrie, the guardian of Fratton Park's secrets for the last seven-and-a-half years, seems much happier about the prospect of working for Al Faraj than he ever was about working for Al Fahim.

And third, erm...have I mentioned the metallic paint?

I would love to be able to tell Portsmouth's supporters that Al Faraj is definitely, as Storrie has described him, the "real deal" and a man capable of taking them "to another level", but we've heard similar stuff before and the Championship is another level.

If we just stick to what we know for sure, Al Faraj is a middle-aged (Monday's reports had him at 50 but he had lost 10 years by Tuesday) tycoon who controls a British Virgin Islands-listed company called Falcondrone. It's that company which has bought 90% of Portsmouth from Al Fahim.

His British lawyer, Mark Jacob (video below), who seems like a good guy, fleshed out this meagre CV a little when I spoke to him outside his office in London on Tuesday.

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He described Al Faraj as a commodity broker who heads his family's private investment trust. That trust invests in property and has a stake in Saudi petrochemicals giant Sabic (although the company and the Saudi stock exchange declined to answer my requests to confirm this).

Jacob, who will be representing his client on Portsmouth's board, also assured me Al Faraj is a football nut who has been looking to get into the English game for some time. He added they will both be attending Pompey's next match, which is at home to Spurs on 17 October.

Hold on. Tottenham? Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up. The north London club is the greatest beneficiary of the Pompey fire sale - Fratton Park favourites Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Niko Kranjcar all now reside at White Hart Lane - which is hardly surprising when you remember that Harry Redknapp, the man who led Portsmouth to FA Cup glory only 17 months ago, now manages Spurs.

In fact, you could argue it was Redknapp's policy of signing players of such quality as Crouch, Defoe, Krancjar and co - plus Gaydamak and Storrie's willingness to pay them top-whack wages - that got Portsmouth into this mess.

I've already written about the financial implications of building a dependable Premier League team capable of cup success and basing it at a ground more suited to League One, so I won't do it again. Suffice it to say the money will run out in the end.

And that is what happened in December 2007. It was then that Gaydamak told Storrie to start balancing the books. It was a nice idea but at least a year too late, particularly for a man whose own finances had been credit-crunched.

Al Fahim (remember him?) was supposed to be the solution - a major player in the Middle East with the cash and energy to drive through the redevelopment of Fratton Park, create an Arsenal-style academy/scouting network, refinance the bank loans that had been keeping the show on the road and give manager Paul Hart the money he needs to maintain Pompey's Premier League status.

Sadly, for all involved, it didn't work out like that. Just as it didn't work out for him during his brief but amusing spell as Abu Dhabi front man at Manchester City, just as it hasn't been working out for him in the Dubai property market, and just as he isn't a doctor of anything.

He's packed a lot in to his 32 years - he's also enjoyed a spell as a reality TV Sir Alan Sugar/Donald Trump - but his attempts to break into English football have been embarrassing. If he tries to make it third time lucky at my club, I will padlock myself to the stadium gates.

Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie and Sulaiman Al FahimIn happier times - Pete Storrie and Sulaiman Al Fahim

Which brings me to this remarkable saga's list of still unanswered questions.

If Al Fahim has no money (he was unable to even pay the wages at Fratton Park last week) and brings so little to the table, why does he still have a 10% stake and an honorary role at the club?

How could a recently successful club that plays in the world's richest football league get so close to administration?

Why aren't the league's officials means-testing prospective owners to make sure they can service existing debts and keep the club in business? Is the new "fit and proper person test" already unfit for purpose?

How much, if anything, did Al Fahim actually pay Gaydamak for 100% of the club in August? How much did Al Faraj pay Al Fahim for 90% in October?

Why didn't Gaydamak sell the club to the seemingly more solvent Al Faraj in August - Storrie said at the time the French-Russian-Israeli investor would rather put the club into administration than sell to Al Faraj - but then sanction the deal this week?

And why did Gaydamak, a man who has been looking for a way out for months but remains a creditor at the club, retain veto status after his sale to Al Fahim? What was the rationale for holding on to vital redevelopment land around the ground if he intended to sell it eventually to the next Pompey owner, whoever he may be, for £1?

I could go on but I won't. We've all had enough and it is only fair to give Al Faraj, Hart, Storrie, the squad and fans (especially them) a fair crack at a fresh start. Now that somebody has finally paid up, it is time for Pompey to play up.

* As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about on Twitter

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    What the Dickens is happening to the Prem eh?!

  • Comment number 2.

    The whole situation is rather bewildering. I too fail to understand how someone with seemingly next to no money could be allowed to purchase a Premiership club. And if it's happened once, what's to stop it happening again to another poor, unsuspecting club?

  • Comment number 3.

    I really do feel that if I tried to get my head around any of this, it'll just explode

  • Comment number 4.

    was that a pun wolveshippy?

  • Comment number 5.

    Interesting to see Sulaiman Al Fahim's advisor on tv this morning explaining the reason for the change of ownership being down to timing!?! This smacks of a case of damage limitation for his clients personal and business reputation.

    I also agree that there are still far too many unanswered questions. Although I appreciate the relief that many of my fellow Pompey supporters feel right now, little is known of this Al Faraj. Could this simply be case of another mirage in the Arabian Desert rather than the oasis that Pompey fans have been searching for?

  • Comment number 6.

    Only one question I can answer, alas. Arkadi Gaydamak ('Sacha's' dad - who has never been involved in Portsmouth, at any stage, ever) objected to a member of Al Faraj's previous consortium, not Al Faraj himself. The individual concerned was, according to Storrie, removed from the consortium, but Gaydamak had alreday sold to Fahim, so it was too late.
    Well, maybe two questions. Throughout negotiations, Gaydamak insisted on certain personal repayments and there were legal issues which meant that this repayment could only be facilitated if Gaydamak remained a director. So he has.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Pompey is no exception in the EPL book balancing stakes, none of the EPL clubs are really making money and nobody will tell you that the business models of any of the clubs are viable. However, why is there a queue from Siberia, the ME and US to buy?

  • Comment number 9.

    does anyone remember Micheal Knighton at Man Utd?

  • Comment number 10.

    During my 20-odd years as a Pompey fan, it has never been boring. Of all the chairmen/club owners I have seen come and go, only Milan Mandaric emerges with a shred of credit or affection from fans - buying the club from administration and taking it into the Premiership. The others have either been skint (Deacon, Al-Fahim), started brightly then run out of money/interest (the Gregorys/Gaydamak) or been downright disingenuous (Venables). I hope Al Faraj can bring stability and success to the club.

  • Comment number 11.

    The new director, Mark Jacob, is well-known as a Spurs fan and indeed author of a book on Spurs describing a season during Alan Sugar's time; it'll be a suitable punishment for him watching all the ex-Spurs players now at Portsmouth on a regular basis while missing seeing more of Defoe, Crouch et al

  • Comment number 12.

    I work for www.Jobsite.co.uk the PFC main sponsor, I thought we may get an insight from here as to what has been happening...not even close

    As a result of this though I have been to 4 games so far and have to say the Everton game in particular demonstrated we now have some fight and spirit (how we lost is beyond me) so in turn put £5 on them to win at Wolves as it had been coming and we won and deservedly so (even without Wilson's save)

    Every Pompey fan deserves the team to show the same fight and spirit for the next 30 games.

    At the end of the season if we come up short then it will not be due to Hart or Storrie it will be just because of the the detractors who have mismanaged the club for so long

    If we have survived then we move on and start building again with a stable base to work from with Al Faraj as the man to take us forward as us as fans will always get behind the Team and a chairman who shows he also has the same passion as us

    As it quite rightly says 'We've all had enough and it is only fair to give Al Faraj, Hart, Storrie, the squad and fans (especially them) a fair crack at a fresh start. Now that somebody has finally paid up, it is time for Pompey to play up.'

    Play Up Pompey...

  • Comment number 13.

    Its not rocket science.
    The original Deal wouldnt go through as the owner didnt want to sell to the guy who actually wanted to buy the club.
    So another (Middle man) buys the club doesnt put any money in and doesnt pay the wages scares the heck out of the original owner who then agrees to let him (The middleman) now sell to the original buyer rather than see the club Nose dive into administration.
    Middle man gets 10% for his help. Job done

  • Comment number 14.

    sorry, are you all forgetting michael knighton?
    happened before, will happen again because greed is the only thing running our game.

  • Comment number 15.

    I know it`s quiet because it`s World Cup Qualifiers time but can`t you lot find anything else to focus your attention on??. Can you please leave us alone down here on the South Coast to get on with it, perhaps you should venture further North and sort out Mr Fergusons` rants or are you afraid of upsetting him even more!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I hope this will settle Pompey down to get on with the task of climbing the table.On another note there should be a rule to stop managers who move to a new club from stealing there ex clubs best players,oh sorry they only went to further there careers(fatter wallets).

  • Comment number 17.

    poshPompeyblue - the fact that the new owner actually didn't pay a penny for his 90% stake in the club would somewhat thwart your theory.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    whackercarthy - premier league clubs are making money, of course they are. admittedly teams like chelsea and city that are bankrolled by billionaires don't break even but the league wouldn't exist if it wasn't for profit.

    Arsenal made £35M post tax profit last year (part funded by my season ticket and Sky Sports subscription), hardly peanuts is it.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    of course some of these comments are valid ,but you have clearly decided to ignore some of the info that has been circulated about the problems at my club . At the end of the day you are right in as much as there should be far more detail required for this so called fit and proper persons test and these people should have to prove up front that they have the cash required .

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm not sure why people are bringing up Michael Knighton. Anyone with a memory better than that of a goldfish would recall that he didn't actually buy United - the deal was agreed, but his financial backing fell through so Martin Edwards retained ownership. That was an example of this sort of thing NOT happening.

  • Comment number 23.

    English football has allot going for it but the way it allows its clubs to spend so much more money than they actually have and get into this sort of debt is frankly an embarrassment. No other country does this. In France if you are in debt, you are relegated. In England, every single team is in debt!

    The FA need to open their eyes to this. If clubs can get away with spending money they don't have then it is massively unfair on clubs that manage their finances well and are left behind on the pitch as a result.

  • Comment number 24.

    Its a horrible shame that a club that was seemingly going places with Harry in charge should suffer this fate.

    As for this fit and proper person check, and the question of can the purchaser actually fun the debts, or has the money behind him, it simply must come down to which ever authority it is being greedy. They smell Oil money (See Arab and Russian investors) or chances to break into the US market (US investors) and snatch for it.

    Just as equal a situation is that with United, and to a lesser extent Liverpool. The greedy Glaziers didn't have the money, but they had friends in banks who were willing to lend them money against the assets they'd purchase with the money. I am still astonished it was allowed to happen, and clearly (as shown by the Portsmouth mess) the authorities haven't bothered to learn from it.

    How can you buy something if you don't have the money for it?! Could I buy Virgin on the basis that the profits would cover the loan repayments, and that Virgin could easily take on the loans? If not, why can these guys?

    gah, it makes me so angry.

  • Comment number 25.

    #23. Only unfair in the short term. Look where Leeds are now, through living above their means. It was unfair that they overspent to try and compete with Man United, but it will take them a decade to recover to where they were. United and Arsenal make a tidy profit and are able to service their debt, the big difference being United can do it whilst remaining competetive.
    Its like having a mortgage. If you have the income to support it, what is the problem. The problem lies with those clubs who dont generate enough income. Liverpool for one are close to the edge. Chelsea would be if the loaner were not Abramovich, same with City. pompey obviously overspent, Spurs seem to spend a lot every year without getting into Champs League, not sure what their finances are like. There should be a simple income/expenditure test on each club to prevent the problems at Pompey, but how can you tell a privately owned business how it should be run?

  • Comment number 26.

    good topical blog this.

    maybe i am too stupid... but...i can't get my head around how someone who takes over a football club and is widely reported as a "billionnaire" then suddenly doesn't have enough money to pay wages only a few months after taking over.... either he has money or he doesn't??? surely the donkeys that put these deals together get some sort of commitment.

    Also - why would any businessman buy a club and then sell it very quickly unless they were making a big profit... the numbers of the deal just don't seem to get reported...

    i hope the next guy is good for portsmouth as i have nothing against them... but i just can't understand what goes on???

    maybe i'll buy a club - then realise that the club doesn't make any money and also realise that i have no money and then maybe sell the club...??

  • Comment number 27.

    I'll be happy to never see Al Fahim in the premiership again...there's something about his gormless smile that really annoys me.

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh dear, another nauseating hack who couldn't wait to write an "ah yeah but..." article. So so predictable, you guys.
    Strange that it's all hypothetical and conjecture though; you'd think he didn't really know anything at all, and was just out to write something/anything.

  • Comment number 29.

    Yeah, it was all the manager's fault. If I was 17 and asked my parents for a 911 to learn in, and they then lost the house buying it, who's fault is that?

    Redknapp said 'Give me him him and him and we'll be top half and maybe win a cup, maybe Europe', the owners jumped on it. They could have said 'no', but they didn't did they, they said an emphatic 'yes'.

    It's the manager's fault when the team don't peform, it's the board's fault when they go to rack and ruin because the books are a mess.

    The deal itself is a classic tale of middle man makes deal.

  • Comment number 30.

    "Arsenal made £35M post tax profit last year (part funded by my season ticket and Sky Sports subscription), hardly peanuts is it. "

    Yes mate, it is peanuts. Not being funny, it is certainly more peanuts than the rest of the premier league, but nuts of the dry roasted variety it remains.

    Football isn't the successful business model that people seem to think. Clubs with an individual benefactor, whether that benefactor be an individual or a corporate entity (chelsea/man city respectively) are a rarity.

    The rest of the clubs manage to get by thanks to the goodwill of the banks. Lower league clubs will always have a 'bright young player' who they push forward as a capital asset, in the hope that they can squeeze a high transfer fee from a bigger club, the bigger club in turn is over-leveraged but forced to pay these prices.

    Knowing as I do how transactional business processes work, let me explain to some of you guys - you don't sell a business of this value in a short amount of time. I worked at a very prestigious city law firm as a corporate lawyer for 4 years and in that time we would 'rush through' a number of transactions. This meant that we would be completing deals worth around 5-25million in a matter of six weeks or so.

    Anything bigger will take a lot more time, from the legal perspective, no matter the number of lawyers you throw at it. Sure you can reduce it a bit, but this recent purchase certainly did not happen overnight, nor could it have done.

    It's clear to me that Sulaiman Al Fahim was acting as a one-man investment vehicle for Ali Al Faraj. It's a term used for various purposes, but there is an element of face-saving involved here which only those with experience of middle-eastern legal and business knowledge will understand.

    I think this can only be good news for the fans. Whilst there may not be hundreds of millions available, like at Man City, I'm sure there will be sufficient funds to stay up. The only really big question mark I have is that the manager, whilst a lovely chap, is really lacking in coverage and simply isn't a bit enough 'personality' to attract the kind of players that they will need in January to facilitate staying up.

    Sorry for rambling on a bit, I'm considering making my own twitter page to give an explanation to some of my views - I do tend to go on a bit!

  • Comment number 31.

    Interestingly when an arab buys a club everyone is happy bcoz they think he will throw money at the club but when he decides to sell the club for whatever reason then ppl complain. people have to remember that football is all about money. i dont think the people who own the clubs first priority is keeping fans happy, its about making profits. so good on that arab guy for selling the club, he may not know anything about football or may not be 'the doctor of anything' but hes a hell of alot richer than any of us cud ever be!! dont be jealous matt!! negative media is wot is fed to the masses just fills ppl with hate.

  • Comment number 32.

    Excellent well researched piece, thanks Mark.

  • Comment number 33.

    These so called business men are just attention seekers and this one got his hands burnt but got luck that someone else bailed him out and bought 90% stake. I hope for pompey fan's it's finally coming to an end and that they see investments into the team and ground.

  • Comment number 34.

    How on earth did he get through the 'fit to own a club process'..? he clearly never was from the start. As a life long Pompey fan the whole sorry episode is sickening.

    Unless the Premier League are far more diligent, Pompey will be the first club to have this happen.....they will not be the last

  • Comment number 35.

    the men at the top of football need to take some action. the buying of clubs as play things, the outragious wages and the prices being throw around for players is getting out of controll.

    these business men don't care about the club or football. they just want to get their faces in the news papaer. can you really think that buying a football club, spending 200million+ on players and offering 100k+ a week to each player is a sound investment? nah lol. their here to get their faces known and they don't care what happens to the clubs.

    next season sees the intro of young and accademy based players getting more first team action. hopefully this will do some thing to controll the ever of insain state of football. we really don't want to get to a point where only clubs run by billionairs can compete.

    what will happen to clubs like chelsea and man city if their owners decide they've had enough and pull their money out? it's not like they can make a profit playing 100k+ around the squad. any club could be the next leeds united if not managed in a stable way.

  • Comment number 36.

    Anothjer thing I don't get is how Pompey thought they wouldn't get into trouble down the line with such reckless and ill though out spending. A few people are comparing the Portsmouth situation to Leeds United but if anything its is even more reckless. Had Leeds regularly qualified for the Champions League regularly (as was the plan) then its likely their debt would have been manageable. This was obviously a big risk which went spectacularly wrong but what was Portsmouths plan exactly? They knew realistically they weren't going to get Champions League money nor a new ground and extra gate money in the short-term. How did they hope to manage the debt?

  • Comment number 37.

    This looks a bit like money laundering, allegedly.

  • Comment number 38.

    I live in Abu Dhabai and Al Fahim was the Head of one the biggest construction companies in the UAE, until he was removed form his post. His track record in construction is dismal and the company he fronted has one of the worst track records in customer service and delivery of its products. Why he is considered in such high esteem by the Football Authority in the UK is a joke.

    Other than showing a bank balance that is dubious, the guy's track record, in any business environment, should have him banned from coming anywhere near a business for the rest of his life!

  • Comment number 39.

    It appears that fans and the media ask more searching questions of potential new owners of football clubs than the Premier League or FA do.

  • Comment number 40.

    Peter Storie may be "long suffering" now but he took all the decisions under gaydamak, and it was his policy of overspending that got Portsmouth into this mess.
    With £50m of tv money on the table, no premierleague club should be anywhere near administration, yet Storie needed Al Fahim to come up with 50m to prevent it.
    Pompey could have gone down last season, as a Reading fan I have seen this can be financially hard for a well run, small spending club. In Pompeys situation the result would have been far worse than any other crisis. In my opinion the likes of Storie, Ridsdale etc should be banned by the FA for their cavelier attitude towards the future. Newcastle will demonstrate how bad it could have been if they don't bounce straight back up.

    Thankfully Pompey appear to have the money to survive, and the players spirit seems to have improved from all of this.

  • Comment number 41.

    Gooner here:

    would like to say best of luck to you pompey lot and congrats on getting Avram Grant at the helm, he will do very well for you. Chelsea treated the guy very shoddly in my opinion. Nice to see him back in the PL.

    have a great season.

  • Comment number 42.

    Al Fahim is from Abu Dhabi, not Dubai. It was always unlikely he has enough money to run a Premier League club - he owns a real estate company in Abu Dhabi 'Hydra Propoerties' but he doesn't have royal money like Sheikh Mansour at Man City.
    If I was a Pompey fan I'd be concerned about the decision making to go for him over Al Faraj initially, and I'd be concerned about Al Faraj also - the business mentality is so different in the Kingdom.

  • Comment number 43.

    Last season during Pompey V AC Milan, I made a comment about how Southampton were once playing in the Uefa cup and it didn't take long for them to dwindle down the leagues and the same could happen to Portsmouth. Friends of mine who are Pompey fans laughed of this suggestion at the time. Even at the beginning of this season when the spine of their team was ripped apart Pompey fans were still confident of success. Now they are in serious threat of relegation. I think what I am getting at is old Harry Redknapp, "the wheeler Deeler" the man who can mastermind the "great escape" who has significantly contributed to both clubs down falls. Interested in short term success only and quick to escape once trouble start brewing.

  • Comment number 44.

    "I could go on but I won't. We've all had enough..."

    Yawnnnnnnnnn.

    In your blog, you have yourself stated that indeed we have all "had enough" of the whole saga. So why write another blog on a subject which is already tired and you have added nothing else on the matter?

    It really is quite sad that it seems people like yourself get a kick out of seeing teams such as Portsmouth suffer, hence the regurgitation of old news, rumours and lies over and over.

    The fact that Portsmouth do not conform with the other clubs in the league which is frankly predictable and boring and bring something else to the table should be embraced rather than put down and discarded at all opportunities.

    It's sad that a small little club stuck down south manages to get up the noses of so many, that the relative success of the club especially in the last decade or so pains so many.

    Shaun Custis of The Sun take note, even you must be tired of sour grapes by now?

  • Comment number 45.

    My final comment on the matter - "Fratton Park favourites Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Niko Krancjar all now reside at White Hart Lane"

    You couldn't be further from the truth in calling those three "favourites".

    Kranjcar - massively over-rated show pony with no fight, spirit or loyalty

    Defoe - see above, as well as being a money grabbing, self centered arrogant, obnoxious, devious piece of *insert appropriate word here*

    Crouch - see 'Kranjcar'

    None are missed and never will be, all are as deluded as the fans and board of the club they now work for.

  • Comment number 46.

    Re above. The bloke who said supporting Pompey was not boring hit the nail on the head,and although we are currently in th middle of circus it is nice to get some coverge. Even during our cup win I don't think we got as much as this Makes a nice change from hearing every word uttered by SAF.

    I remember Crouch saving us from relegation from the old div one (now championship) a few years ago so he will always be welcomed back. Kranjcar was a tidy player who helped us beat Utd in the 6th round and he helped get rid of Steve 'Effing' Mclaren as England manager so fair play to him. As for Defoe, the 'insert nasty word' bit is spot on - if you want a pin up for all that is wrong with footballers you could do no worse.

    Thank you for all the good lucks. Most of us have no delusions of grandeur, we've come up the divisions very slowly and know we are lucky we don't have to play Bury twice every season (no offence intended). We know it may not last but there you go - that's life

  • Comment number 47.

    Evening all, thanks for reading and apologies for not responding earlier. I'll try to race through as many as possible in one sitting and this time I'll go in reverse order.

    We_taint_the_glamour (45) Are you sure? I'll give you Defoe (although I'm certain you'd have him back now) as you didn't see the best of him but Kranjcar was your best player the season before last and pretty good last year too. OK, he's no warrior, but when he had decent players around him he was/is superb. And Crouch never let you down.

    As for your previous post (44), you couldn't be further from the truth in saying I get a kick out of seeing teams like Pompey suffer...it's the Pompeys of this world I have time for. You're also wrong about me regurgitating rumour and lies. If you read the piece again you'll see I steer clear of unsubstantiated rumour/conspiracy theory (and believe me, I've heard it all) and only cautiously state things I know to be true. That is all any responsible journalist can do with story because there is very little we can back up with more than one credible source. I've got answers to all the questions I pose at the end but they are all based on off-the-record briefings from people closely involved in this saga, and they have not always been completely honest with me.

    Desert-Fox (42) - Al Fahim was born in Dubai and, as far as I can tell, grew up there. He also, again as far as I can tell, still lives there, hence his visit to a Dubai hospital for his kidney stone operation. Hydra is a UAE company with offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

    james6286 (40) - I agree, Storrie's role in Pompey's financial mess cannot be ignored...he's the CEO! It happened on his watch. Where were the financial controls? Who was managing the manager?

    On the other hand, Pompey had lived beyond their means under Mandaric/Storrie too but that turned out OK because they got out of the Ch'ship and consolidated in the PL. So the speculate to accumulate approach had worked before. Clearly much depended on getting a new stadium - it's hard to pin down where the fault lies there.

    You've also got to ask what Gaydamak was doing for 2 years. Presumably he signed off on these transfers/wages (including Storrie's huge wedge). So blame must be shared.

    That said, I don't think anybody can deny the admirable fire-fighting job Storrie has done this year. I think that is why his stock has risen among Pompey fans. They recognise a guy doing all he can to keep their club afloat - I understand one group intends to make him player of the season.

    Murray (37) - I couldn't possibly comment...ditto BognorRock (36).

    garrincha84 (31) - Football is most definitely not ALL about money...or it shouldn't be, anyway. What would your namesake have to say about that?!?

    boringoldblue (30) and james1965 (13) - Interesting that you raise the Al Fahim as middleman theory, it had occurred to a few of us. It would certainly explain a lot of the recent shenanigans....but not all of them.

    To support your theory, you've got Al Fahim's previous at Man City, his media profile (particularly in Middle East) and his stint at Hydra Properties. He's a classic frontman. Al Faraj would appear to be your classic power-behind-the-throne/billionaire recluse guy. Add in the reported beef between the Gaydamaks and Al Faraj (A won't see to C, so sells to B who then sells to C who throws B a bone to say thanks) and you've got a nice little racket.

    But, given what happened at City/Hydra, why use Al Fahim as your middleman? Why risk so much damage to your new investment's health/reputation/value? Why was Storrie so upset about the deal not happening in August? Why keep the middleman around when you no longer need him? Would staid Saudi money use a UAE showman as a front to buy into English football...why not use Storrie?

    And since we're into X Files territory, what if Al Faraj was the middleman, not Al Fahim?

    ghisared (25) - You make a good point about it being difficult to tell a privately-run business how to run its affairs but it's not impossible. First, we're talking about football clubs here, not typical businesses...I'm sure you've heard the old gag about how you make a massive fortune in football? Second, if we've learned nothing else in the last year or so we have surely learned a little bit of (effective) regulation is no bad thing. Third, there is a wider perspective here because it is you and me, the tax payer, that bears the brunt of things when these under-regulated privately-run football businesses go bust - and local businesses are next in line to feel the pain. And fourth, football clubs are nothing without competitions to play in. These competitions - leagues and cups - set the rules of play, on and off the pitch. If you want to join in you must abide by the rules. Over to you, PL, FA, FL, Uefa and Fifa.

    ONLY1TEAMINHANTS (21) - But who circulated this info and why? And what info are you refering to? Details about the debts/problems with the stadium? It's all there in my August blog. Or are you talking about the reasons Gaydamak didn't sell to Al Faraj in the first place? If so, then you're right, I have chosen to treat with caution the things I've been told "for background" and then seen in the papers the following day. I've done this because that 'info' has usually contradicted something I've been told "for background" by another player in this soap opera and cannot be verified by a second source.

    islandalan (15) - So we should ignore clubs like Pompey and only write about/report/follow the Man Utds?

    I know it's unpleasant to keep reading bad news about your club, and I only have sympathy for Pompey fans, but events at your club have been a big story because of the issues involved - football's relationship with debt, foreign ownership of English clubs, football and the credit crunch, the PL's continuing attraction to investors etc etc. It's "state of the nation" stuff for English football. Premier League clubs aren't supposed to go bust!

    spursfan56 (11) - Yep, he founded Tottenham Action Group, didn't he? And have you read his book? No fan of the Alan Sugar school of football ownership.

    whackercarthy (8) - Great question. I don't know. Prestige? Cashing your chips in somewhere safe and public? Clever people thinking they're more clever than everybody else? A hobby?

    motormurph (6) - I heard that too (from the horse's mouth)...but it didn't completely convince me, was impossible to corroborate and contradicted things other horses' mouths were telling me. Doesn't make it untrue though! Which is why I left them as questions that I felt needed to be answered more fully and more transparently.

    That's more than enough from me. Thanks for reading and good luck to all involved at Fratton Park.

    Matt

  • Comment number 48.

    I wish these Arab oil men would buy an American Football team and leave us alone!

  • Comment number 49.

    When you look at the sales various owners of PL clubs have made, such as those of Portsmouth, Liverpool, Newcastle, West Ham, Man City in a previous life and maybe Derby and compare with what Doug Ellis did with Aston Villa, you have to give Deadly Doug credit. He did a great job with due diligence, he didn't get taken in by anyone and sold to someone with a long term genuine interest in making the club a success, not a flash in the pan.

    Well done, Doug, you deserve better recognition. God bless him and Randy Lerner.

  • Comment number 50.

    "Dr" Al Fahim (or SAF as he is known in UAE - go figure!) is an empty vessel. His property company in Abu Dhabi, Hydra, has failed to deliver on just about every single project it has "launched".

    I cannot imagine how this person passed the fit and propert test of the EPL. My granny's blind, three legged cat has more business acumen than this fellow. Pompey is better without him. He sold his 90% stake in the club for "zero pounds" his word, not mine. He did not have the money to start with, so how on earth did those clowns at the EPL decide that he was fit and proper to buy a football club???? Beggars belief.

  • Comment number 51.

    I forgot to add - cracking blog, Matt! Bang on the money. Nice to see someone actually investigating instead of regurgitating bland PA reports.

  • Comment number 52.

    As a Saudi, I'll tell you something.

    First: Under the Saudi Stock Exchange's rules, names are published for every investor own 5% or more in any company.
    Sabic is a very big company, no way this man owns more than 5% in Sabic! Thus, no one can confirm his stake in that company unless he has more than 5% which is impassible. (Even Al-Waled Price doesn't have that steak!).

    Second: If this person is a billionaire, we will know him or at least his family name. no one of my friends/family heard about this name in the business world.

    Third: It happens always here in Saudi that new names come up as Billionaires, but after a while, we know the story which is always connected to money laundering activities. eg. (Saad Group)

    Regards

  • Comment number 53.

    Great for reconciliation to see a Saudi owner hiring someone who has run Israeli teams. I hope they get on well together for a long time. Portsmouth have got a bargain too; Grant took somebody else's team that was underperforming and got it to the final of the Champions League. Chelsea were nuts to sack him.

  • Comment number 54.

    Amusing that the Saudi Stock Exchange would not confirm ownership of certain shares. Welcome to the world of Middle East "transparency". Not.

  • Comment number 55.

    "long suffering Peter Storrie"

    Even as a Saints fan, I think I'd be willing to put up with running the Pompey circus if they were paying me £1m a year.

    Storrie has come out of this with a no lose situation for him. He's seen as a hero to many Pompey fans and I fully expect, his own financial package has been enhanced. Perhaps he even received a "finders fee" for bringing Al Faraj to the table?

  • Comment number 56.

    We have had to wait quite a while for someone to take on the 'joke club' mantle which resided with Man City for so many years.
    Newcastle have been worthy candidates, but relegation has given some stability, and games won.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I therefore give you Portsmouth as their worthy successor.

    Good luck to the loyal Pompey fans, you'll need it!!

  • Comment number 57.

    Good copmments guys- especially those (D7oome etc) who have explained how things work for people like me!

    By the way - i am a billionaire - i am going to buy a premier league club... i guess i just walk in and say to the lady on the front desk i am a billionaire and i am buying the club and then that is it - i own it!!!

    happy days!

    I now own - Man U, Barca, Inter and Bayern Munich,.....

  • Comment number 58.

    I don't buy into the fact that Al Faraj is a recluse... because buying a Premier League club is the last thing a real recluse would do!

    Buying a club opens you up to not only the world's media, but also thousands of quite obsessive fans who will google-you-to-death and probe into not only your business life, but your personal life too. Plus you'll get the nutters who will spread internet rumours about you, just for kicks.

    Really, you couldn't get more high profile unless you had double-dated Kerry Katona and Amy Winehouse live on an episode of the X-Factor.

  • Comment number 59.

    Most fans will not worry who puts the money into the club as long as the club stays in the premier league,not to say they would sell their souls for a premiership place but money for survival is a good swap.

  • Comment number 60.

    It sounds complex.

    One things for sure - the whole saga has nothing to do with football and everything to do with money.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hello all, glad to see the debate still has some legs in it, and I agree with boomshakalak, there have been some really good comments posted.

    A few more late comments from me and I promise this will be briefer than my earlier response.

    First up, hopefully you'll have realised this blog was an attempt to sort out the wheat from the chaff in terms of what I (and other journalists) have been told off the record by one party or another and what I've been told on the record and can substantiate. I didn't want to get into a "he said/she said" ding-dong or float the various theories I've heard/read in regard to the Pompey takeover, so I decided to pose the things I couldn't say for sure as unanswered questions.

    Well, I can no add a little more detail - on the record - from the Gaydamak camp. A spokesman for Sacha Gaydamak has asked me to make clear that Sacha never had any problem with the Al Faraj family buying Portsmouth. He also said Arcadi Gaydamak, Sacha's dad, has "at no time and in no way had any involvement in Portsmouth FC, either directly or indirectly."

    This is fine, as far as it goes, but contradicts things I (or colleagues) have heard from other players in this piece.

    I would also question Arcadi's non-involvement with the club when the spokesman admits the problem with the Al Faraj consortium in August was that it included an investor who was in dispute with Arcadi over a different property deal. This seems to me like, at the very least, an "indirect" influence over matters at Portsmouth.

    I think I should leave it at that but give the final word on that matter to the Gaydamak camp.

    "Sacha wishes Ali al Faraj well and hopes that he is a good, stable long term owner of Portsmouth."

    And on the subject of who Al Faraj is, D7oome et al, I share your desire to know more. I don't want to spend the rest of my day/week ferreting away for info on a guy who clearly wants to keep a lid on his private life/finances but I think it's worth making a few observations.

    1) I notice he has got younger again. Latest reports are saying he is 39. Is he Benjamin Button?
    2) People from his camp are pouring cold water on the Sabic shareholding angle. And they are downplaying talk of his billions. It now seems he owns a company called EasyWay Ltd. Not sure what they do and a quick internet search reveals little (an IT firm in Surrey? textile traders in HK? tech firm in India?)
    3. Prior to this week, the BBC's Middle East Business Unit in Dubai had never heard of him or his family. The only references they can find to him in local media are to do with this Portsmouth deal.
    4. Saudi football officials at the Football Leaders conference in London this week have never heard of the Al Faraj family.

    Oh well, might be nothing and I'm sure we'll learn plenty more in the weeks and months to come. He's already more exciting than the Glazers.




  • Comment number 62.

    Thats what happens when you max out the credit card to win the FA Cup.

    Couldn't happen to a nicer club ;)

  • Comment number 63.

    What a superb article.

    Matt you say you have off the record answers to all your questions?

    Can you post them?

  • Comment number 64.

    Interesting article, and I hope it does all work out for Pompey. But this highlights how difficult it is to actually see what is happening at the clubs in the EPL.

    Whilst only a few years ago the main focus of columns like this one, was which manager would be sacked, not with owner would be taking over. The influence and importance of the credit rating of any potential owner now seems to dominate rumour mills.

    A meeting of EPL owners would look like a morning at the United Nations, alas with more expensive motors and throphy wives.

    The Premier League must act to give more visibility on both transfers and operations at our clubs, not so journos can poor over them for potential scandal, but rather for supports and legal officials to ensure the operation of our clubs are senisble and sustainable.

    Being a Bolton fan, I'm not expecting any Arab billionare to swap their penthouse in Dubai for a 2up 2down semi in Brieghtmet but even if it did happen I'd at least want to know what they [A] plan to do with the club and [B] and some sight on how they are running the club. The biggest danger (as Pompey have found out) is that whilst your being bank rolled it's great to have a strong squad on high wages, but as soon as the money stops it can force you close to administration.

    I'd like to see the EPL implement some basic rules to ensure that any owner running massive debts (or debts that would be unsustainable without their billionaire owner) and foreced to deposit an upfront sum to a third party which would be used to support the club if they decided to leave on a whim.

  • Comment number 65.

    Why does Matt Slater feel the need to speculate on what he doesn't know? Is he a Southampton fan desperately searching for some reason not to feel so bad about the position of his own club, like the oxymoronically named "super-saint"?

    The money questions should have been asked when Harry was splashing the cash we didn't have on big name players. It is clear that Crouch doesn't have a clue what he wants - the only regular football he has had in the last 5 years is at Portsmouth and now he's back to warming the bench, only this time for Tottenham.

    We'll get through this and be stronger for it.

  • Comment number 66.

    Mr Slater, fair play replying to the comments made by myself and others!

    You've well and truly hit the nail on the head about Kranjcar, the fact you need a team built around him to get the best out of him - in our situation, and most other clubs this is a luxury that can't be afforded and saying he needs quality players around him is again true. However, how many teams can you say he'd fit into? As soon as Modric is fit again he won't get a look in, in my opinion. Stating he was our best player in 07/08 I feel is detrimental to the Muntari's, Mendes', Diarra's and even for half the season Benjani. As for Defoe, I wouldn't have him back in any circumstances as I think we saw while he was here what he's all about, like someone else said - he opitomises all that is wrong with modern day football/footballers. Looking at the stats for the calendar year he was with us too, statisticslly we were the 2nd least successful team in the league in terms of points gained, with the exception of Blackburn. Coincidence? (And before a Mr Redknapp starts getting smug, you were still with us for the majority of the time frame in question!) Look at the form before he arrived and we sacrificed the workers and grafters such as Benjani, who was also offering a decent goal return.

    I'm glad that for a change that someone within the media takes a positive stance with regard to us and other 'smaller' clubs - not everyone believes the hype exacerbated by the red-tops in this country.

    Apologies for maybe misinterpretating your tone and agenda with the blog, it's been a long summer of fighting off the media!

 

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