Pompey Virtual Alliance Meeting: Report
Portsmouth FC C.E.O Peter Storrie and Head of Operations Lucius Peart attended the meeting along with Johnny Moore (Supporter Relations Manager) and Chris Hayler (Brand and Marketing Manager). The meeting was chaired by Colin Farmery and the minutes were taken by Bill Gillon of pompeyonline.com.
After everyone introduced themselves, the meeting began with a discussion about the issue of the ownership of the club but before that Peter Storrie gave us an overview of the financial history of the club since he has been at Pompey.
Storrie began by stating that no owner has put any equity into Portsmouth FC in the seven years he has been at the club and that every owner who has taken over from the previous has increased the debt of the club as it has progressed.
The average turnover of the club is around £60 million and for the first time since he has been at the club it is predicted that the club will break even in January. The clubs costs are around £60 million (£30-40 million of that total is spent on wages) and so even though we break even, there would be no money for transfers in January to take from our own revenue.
Storrie then said that he has personally saved Portsmouth Football Club over the last year, although he also acknowledges that he had help from other staff too.
In fact, the Pompey C.E.O personally promised other clubs that he would stay at the club to ensure that he would oversee payments that we owe those other clubs. It should be noted that he could have walked away from the club but decided to stay, so that shows that there is some loyalty in football. (Harry Redknapp, take note!)
One of the most worrying revelations to come from the meeting is that the banks that Pompey are indebted to could call in their money whenever they wanted. It seems that Standard Bank want to bring the club down and because Pompey were forced to reduce the loans, we had no choice but to sell players to keep the club alive.
Our immediate financial problems have also been compounded by the fact we've had to pay loan fees for the players we have borrowed, meaning we've had to stump up the cash straight away rather than schedule payments to a club over a period of time for a permanent signing.
Peter then told us that all the money Pompey have received from Sky has gone straight to Standard Bank and the club has had to re-finance and so had to bring in an owner with equity. The owner will have to provide equity and Portsmouth must have a bigger stadium if is is to provide additional finance in the future.
Storrie also added that other clubs and agents have been kind to Pompey by delaying payments that were due to them.
Mike Hall (of pompey-fans.com) then asked the question we've all been dying to know the answer to. "Has Sulaiman Al-Fahim completed his takeover and if so, where is his money?"
Storrie gave us a backstory as to how he first met Al-Fahim back in February where initial discussions took place about buying the club. He didn't hear from him again until May (as presumably Al-Fahim waited to be sure Pompey would still be in the Premier League) when he then invited Storrie to meet him at the Champions League Final in Rome and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed.
As we all know, the situation dragged on for months and Al-Fahim was fully aware of what was happening. As time went on Pini Zhavi told Peter of the Al Farraj brothers' interest in buying the club and a meeting took place between the two parties, where things moved quickly.
It was revealed that one of the people in Al Farraj's consortium was to sue Arcadi Gaydamak (Sacha's father) and although he was removed by the consortium, Al-Fahim came up with the money and the offer that was accepted, after probably being driven by Arcadi Gaydamak because of the lawsuit position.
Al-Fahim IS the owner of Portsmouth Football Club but has not re-financed the club as things stand. Storrie believes that Al-Fahim's trip to the USA was to try and raise new finance but is unsure if he was successful or if he has the funds to re-finance the club by himself as all of his assets are tied up in business and are not liquid assets.
Storrie went on to say that Sulaiman Al-Fahim has the best interests of Pompey at heart but has had no answers from him when asked about how to fund the club or how the club is run.
When asked if the Al Farraj brothers are interested, Storrie said they were and that proposals are being discussed but the decision ultimately rests on Al-Fahim's shoulders as he is the sole owner. It was agreed amongst everyone that this may be difficult because of Al-Fahim's ego and the likelihood that he will bring in his own people in time.
Scott McLachlan (of Pompey.org) asked if Al-Fahim would start releasing statements through the club, rather than himself and Storrie replied by saying that he has to stop releasing statements in public as it could damage the club.
Peter said that he had re-negotiated a timescale for outstanding payments we owe to clubs but Al-Fahim endangered this by claiming the following day that Pompey were going to sign various players and spend some cash, when the debts owed to those clubs have to be paid first.
In an ideal world, Al-Fahim and the Al Farraj brothers would own the club 50/50 which would be a much more stable situation for Pompey. Although this is unlikely, it may be possible for a share agreement to be discussed.
Colin Farmery asked: "Are there any outstanding issues with Sacha Gaydamak?"
Storrie answered by stating that Sacha sits on the board of the holding company (Miland 2004) and said that he has personally written off over £21 million of debt. There is no impediment in the deal Al-Fahim has done with Gaydamak which prevents him selling the club on.
Questions where then asked about Al-Fahim's alleged £100 million bonus and his 48-page "visionary" document. Storrie claimed that he thinks that Al-Fahim is expecting a bonus of some sort but both he and Lucius Peart believe that the document was a publicity stunt.
Vern Rickman (of pompeytillidie.com) asked if Al-Fahim is listening to the fans regarding his their views on his statements and publicity stunts and Storrie replied by saying that Al-Fahim does his own thing and he doesn't appreciate or understand how it comes over to the fans.
However, he does hope to attend the next fans forum to listen to what we have to say.
Scott McLachlan asked what the club can do to restore confidence back into the club after a summer full of broken promises as there is no enthusiasm for people to come to Fratton Park.
Lucius Peart answered this by telling us that Pompey have taken a kicking across the board from the media and everyone at the club has suffered. He, and everyone else understands the frustration that the fans are feeling because he and the rest of the staff are feeling the same way.
Storrie added that a brilliant new stadium redevelopment and the training ground are ready to go as soon as the finance is there. He said things would move very quickly and revealed his dream for the biggest family section in a football stadium to entice new supporters to come and watch Pompey.
When the issue was raised about season ticket holders being rewarded for their loyalty (in wake of the slashing of the ticket prices for everyone else), Lucius revealed that fans will receive a 20% discount off the launch price of any replica kit, meaning it will now cost £28.
This offer is open until 30th of November 2009, whilst the new third kit will go on sale on October 7th. Additionally, season ticket holders will now receive a 10% discount (rather than 5%) on any full priced item in the club shop.
Peter Corrigan (of pompeygossip.co.uk) asked if Peter Storrie was staying and he said he was and he has just bought a new house in the area. He revealed that he turned down a massive offer from a "big" club to stay at Pompey and although recent happenings have got him down, he was been overwhelmed by the messages of support he has received from the Pompey fans.
Storrie also would like to see how Pompey can entice the fans that only come to the odd game or two to come more regularly. I, myself, then commented by saying that we've been extremely lucky to have the last few years we have had and that fans of other clubs are extremely jealous of that, despite our troubles now.
Peter commented himself by stating that the club is partly to blame for letting expectations get too high but that comes with the recent success we have had and we now need to find a way to get the fans who only attend the games against the top teams to come to the games against the lesser opposition.
Dave Taylor (of Vital Pompey) asked if Pompey are going to take advantage of the 20,000 University students that have just arrived in the city and what the club think of a recent article by The Mirror which implied that the Pompey fans were revolting against the club.
Lucius revealed that the club are working with the University and is sponsoring the athletics teams. In regards to the article, Storrie believes that the club has a good relationship with the fans and he has personally been shocked by the amount of positive e-mails has has received from the fans.
Vern Rickman made an interesting comment as Peter earlier said that this is the toughest summer he has been through but Vern made the point that this has been Storrie's best in terms of a relationship with the fans, as we can now see how much work he has put into the club and how much he cares, whereas before he was mocked for "lying" all the time.
When the question was asked about what the Pompey Virtual Alliance websites can do for the club, Peter asked us to try and quell the expectations of Al-Fahim and his media ramblings, as well as promote ticket sales to fill Fratton Park again.
Scott McLachlan commented by saying that if we're going to go down, that we should go down fighting.
Storrie said that the atmosphere on the training ground has greatly improved, with some played wanting to do double training sessions. Paul Hart now feels that he has a team to play an attacking formation, and that the defensive strategy of last season was actually influenced by Brian Kidd, not Hart.
The meeting ended with Peter Storrie confirming that he is happy to hold a meeting with the Pompey Virtual Alliance every two months and that more regular meetings with Johnny Moore and Chris Hayler would take place to see how the club and the websites can work together.
The meeting officially closed at 12:02pm.
I must personally thank both Peter Storrie and Lucius Peart for taking the time to talk to us and for being as open as possible. I feel that this meeting has been an extremely positive venture and I look forward to the next meeting, hopefully with Al-Fahim present.
I also wish to thank Johnny Moore and Chris Hayler for their attendance and co-operation with us, and I also want to thank Colin Farmery for organising and chairing the meeting.
I hope that the result of this meeting has shed some light on the current situation at the club and has been beneficial to anyone who reads any of the Pompey websites. The next step is to establish a solid connection between the club and the websites, something which can hopefully be done in the near future.