Tears as Portsmouth fans reclaim football club

By Clare Semke
BBC South Online

Image caption,
Portsmouth fans have been asked to give £1,000 each to help save the club

Grown men were brought to tears as news broke that the Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST) had cleared the last hurdle in its bid to own its beloved Portsmouth Football Club.

Tense fans had been monitoring Twitter all afternoon until it was finally confirmed a High Court judge had signed the order paving the way for a fans' takeover.

The south coast club has been on a seemingly never-ending rollercoaster ride since Harry Redknapp became manager in 2002.

There were the highs of getting promotion to the Premier League, winning the FA Cup and entertaining the likes of AC Milan at Fratton Park in the Uefa Cup.

'Almost speechless'

But with a spiralling wage bill, and problems in the background, the lows soon arrived.

Two spells in administration and two relegations later the club was faced with the threat of expulsion from the Football League within weeks if a deal could not be agreed.

Image caption,
Olly Birch said he was "probably the happiest I've ever been"

Season ticket-holder Tom Dearie, 40, runs the Pompey's 12th Man website.

Holding back tears, he said: "It's been 17 months of hard work by a lot of people to get to this point. I don't think it'll sink in for a few days.

"There are so many people involved who have put so much into this - I'm almost speechless, to be honest.

"I've cried twice. The fact this is now a community-owned club and they have got rid of all those people who've caused so much damage, it's amazing."

Mr Dearie now hopes more people will come forward to pledge £1,000 each to become a shareholder in the club, with about £2m already raised.

'It's unbelievable'

He added: "£1,000 is a lot of money, and, quite rightly, some people were waiting and seeing what would happen before they paid up - but there's no reason to now."

Olly Birch, 22, who is a season ticket and shareholder along with father Mike, 51, said: "I'm probably the happiest I've ever been.

"I'm so happy for everyone involved as well. Everyone has come together and not only saved the club, but brought it back to the fans - it's unbelievable."

Image caption,
Pompey fans gathered at the Shepherds Crook pub in Southsea to celebrate the news

Carl Paddon, 29, from SOS Pompey, said: "Words can't describe it. We've wanted this for such a long time. I find it hard to comprehend.

"People don't understand the sacrifices people have had to make for this."

Mr Paddon also paid tribute to lifelong Pompey fan Tony Goodall, who died following a stroke in March last year.

"[He] was instrumental in setting up the trust. Hopefully he's up there watching," Mr Paddon added.

The city council has also played its part after agreeing to give club a bridging loan of £1.45m to be repaid at a rate of 5%.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, council leader, said: "I'm really, really pleased for the trust.

"Hopefully this gives an indication around the country that to be actually owned by the community, to be owned by the fans, gives long-term stability."

A party is to be held at Fratton Park from 12:00 BST on Thursday with members of the the public welcome.

Media caption,
The club has spent 14 months in administration

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