Portsmouth: One year in administration

By Nabil HassanBBC Sport
BBC South Today looks back on a eventful year at Fratton Park

A prominent figure involved in the administration of Portsmouth Football Club recently said he was planning to write a book about the past 12 months at Fratton Park.

Filling it would not be a problem, although deciding on a genre could be. Fantasy? Thriller? Tragedy? Maybe a joke book? One thing is certain, the past year has been anything but dull.

But whatever genre he decides on, the last chapter is now surely being written.

This time last year the club entered administration, 12 months that have seen the club relegated, every senior player leave and about 50 staff made redundant.

It is a year that has taken its toll on everyone connected to Pompey, but despite everything one constant that has kept the club together are the fans.

A group of them are investing £1,000 each to create the largest community-owned club in Britain in a bid to save the team they love.

"For me, this is about my kids, who all have Pompey in their names," supporter Micah Hall told BBC Sport in November.

"What would they say to me if I left the club to die, or labour on in the wrong hands?"

The prelude to this sorry tale began in November 2011 with the collapse of Snoras Bank, which had been part-owned by the then-Pompey chairman Vladimir Antonov.

Pompey were soon placed into administration as it emerged they had debts of £61m and faced the very real threat of liquidation.

Potential suitors have come and gone with football financier Keith Harris the latest to stick his head above the parapet. Given the year Pompey have had, they were probably expecting a call from Orville.

But now, despite a late curve ball from the Professional Footballers' Association, only the Pompey Supporters' Trust remain and on Thursday PKF will again head to the High Court to finally set the date that will decide their future.

"My initial reaction is, how could it be a year?" caretaker boss Guy Whittingham told BBC Sport on Thursday.

His reaction is justified. With so much going on off the pitch, it's easy to lose track of time.

"I'm enjoying the experience despite everything that is going on," added Whittingham.

"Myself and the rest of the staff are determined to see it through and be here and help the club when it comes out of administration to ensure it is run properly."

Whether they do exit administration remains to be seen.

If they do not, then the Football League may be forced to liquidate the club - something that has not happened since Aldershot went bust in 1992.

But if they can, then the future looks very bright for a club who have been in administration twice in three years despite winning the FA Cup in 2008.

It has been downhill ever since that day at Wembley, but if PKF can finally force the sale of Fratton Park and finally relinquish Balram Chainrai's hold on Pompey then the PST will be taking control of a financially-sound club.

Backed by several investors including local businessman Iain McInnes, the PST has also raised £2.5m from fan pledges.

On Wednesday it secured a £1.45m bridging loan from Portsmouth City Council. It has also found a property partner - Stuart Robinson - who will fund the estimated £3m purchase of land surrounding Fratton Park, as well as help the PST buy the club's stadium - if and when Chainrai's fixed charge is relinquished.

On the field, the past year in administration has had cataclysmic consequences.

In April they were relegated from the Championship. Whittingham's side are currently bottom of League One and are facing a second successive relegation.

The turmoil is not lost on the players, many of whom who have been playing on month-to-month contracts knowing every game could be their last. They are not immune to life's financial pressures.

"I would be really happy if I stayed here but my priority is to look after my family and give them as much as possible," Portsmouth defender Gabor Gyepes told BBC Radio Solent in December.

They have not won in 21 games. Tuesday's draw with Hartlepool was their first point in 10 matches. Their current longest serving player is aged just 19.

Over 50 players have featured for the club this season, while Pompey would have lost 29 points in penalties from the Football League if and when they exit administration.

Administration has not come cheap either, with PKF's costs for the period March to August totalling £1.5m - although it is important to note that the administrators may not claim the full amount and the creditors' committee will have a say in how much is actually paid.

Legal fees are also mounting. Add a couple of courts cases and it does not make pleasant reading.

But despite the uncertainty off the pitch and results on it, the fans continue to support their side.

A crowd of 11,466 saw Saturday's 1-1 draw against Carlisle while 270 made the trip to Hartlepool in midweek and, despite their troubles, the club have the second-highest average attendance in League One this season.

"They are the life of this football club and without them it would be difficult to see how the club could continue," added Whittingham.

And Whittingham is right, without the fans the club would not continue, it is them after all who are hoping to buy Pompey, and to coin a phrase from the PST, 12 months after going into administration now it really is 'Trust or Bust'.

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