Portsmouth: Trevor Watkins warning to new Pompey owners

Leading sports lawyer Trevor Watkins has warned the new owners of Portsmouth to learn the lessons of previous regimes and not go chasing success.

The club, who were £61m in debt, are on the verge of being taking over by the Pompey Supporters' Trust following a complex 14-months in administration.

Their problems were more deep-rooted than just irresponsible spending but Watkins has still urged caution.

"It's about getting the foundations right," he told BBC Sport.

Who's who in Pompey saga?

  • PST - The supporters' trust who will now buy Portsmouth Football Club
  • BDO - The administrators dealing with the sale of Pompey
  • Portpin - Former owners of the club, led by Balram Chainrai, who will now sell Fratton Park to PST

Watkins, is head of sport at legal firm Pinsent Masons, and has been advising the joint-administrator of Portsmouth Trevor Birch over the past 14 months.

He also led the Supporters' Trust which saved Bournemouth from extinction in 1997 and was club chairman between 1997 and 2001.

He has called the administration "the most complex case he has worked on in 16 years in the game" adding: "It has been hugely difficult.

"There has been many times when my firm, and the exemplary work Trevor Birch has done, where we felt the club were very close to going out of business.

"Had it not of been for the last-minute agreement then it probably would have done."

Administrators BDO reached an out of court settlement with former owners Portpin to sell Fratton Park to the PST. It means the PST can complete their takeover of the club before the Football League's end of season deadline.

And Watkins says the new owners "must keep their feet on the ground" and not get carried away in trying to get the club back in the Premier League.

"They now have to prepare for life in League Two and coming into the world of football," he added.

"Fan ownership can work and anybody who runs a football club, it doesn't matter who you are, you are still going to to have the same issues.

"It can be a bit like 'Animal Farm'. You are a supporter, you then get involved in running the club, other supporters will then look at you and ask 'why have you made that decision?' 'how about this'? That is going to be the key thing to balance."

When asked what his advice would be for the new owners, Watkins responded: "Firstly, take a long deep breath because it is probably going to be the last time you can do that in a long while.

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It's not about the pressure of winning on the pitch, it's about getting the foundation right. If any group of supporters should be well founded for this, it is Portsmouth.

Trevor Watkins

"Secondly, be careful. Football fever tends to take over. It's not about the pressure of winning on the pitch, it's about getting the foundation right. If any group of supporters should be well founded for this, it is Portsmouth. If you look back at what happened with Swansea , then that is probably the model they are going to follow.

"It's about keeping your feet on the ground and not signing that centre forward because you want to score goals but getting it right off the field."

With Pompey now on the verge of salvation, Watkins believes it comes at a time when football in the south is at an all-time high.

Southampton are on the verge of confirming their Premier League status, while Brighton are on the verge of sealing a Championship play-off place. Bournemouth are also close to winning promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time since 1987.

"It was incredibly complex but the great thing for Portsmouth is that it joins what is something of a south-coast renaissance for football," he said.

"My own club Bournemouth are well placed for promotion this season, Southampton, what a change over the past few years and when you look at Brighton it is a great time for south coast football.

"The supporters now have a fantastic club and a great opportunity. This is now the way forward for a club that has an exciting future and that will flourish and will grow with the tremendous support they have."