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Pompey may survive liquidation doomsday - but Fratton Park may not

Question marks remain over the future of Fratton Park

Question marks remain over the future of Fratton Park

 

For every adjourned court case, every player exit, every shuffled step towards League Two, it becomes more palatable.

Liquidation.

The prospect of purging Pompey and starting from scratch is presently more enticing than ever.

A Utopian vision of a club free from crippling debt, the spectre of Portpin removed for good, owners who care about the community and football dominating fan debate.

Little wonder after this week’s latest body blow of another High Court adjournment that more beleaguered Blues followers are starting to come round to that Plan B school of thought.

Just one sticking point, however, in this ideology – Fratton Park.

A phoenix Pompey may rise triumphantly from the ashes, yet there is no guarantee the famous old girl will join it.

That is the startling scenario should, after almost a year in administration, the liquidators at last come calling.

Certainly the possibility of a new Portsmouth Football Club never again playing at its home of 113 years is one which should alarm those contemplating Plan B favourably.

Of course, the presence of the Trust as preferred bidders and in dialogue with the Football League, the PFA and PKF ensures such drastic measures need not yet be taken.

In addition, high-net-worth individuals have been covering losses monthly since October to prevent that scenario.

Yet if liquidation did occur, the future of Fratton Park remains shrouded in doubt, regardless of the club’s likely rebirth.

Admittedly it is a grey area, the answer is certainly not a definitive one, however enough is known about the liquidation process among the Trust and Portsmouth City Council to raise serious concerns.

The winding up of Pompey would see the ground handed to the liquidators who will be under instruction to sell it as swiftly as possible, realistically a matter of several months.

A major sticking point of any new Portsmouth Football Club would be how to fund such a purchase, particularly considering their infancy and likelihood of lowly-placing in the non-league pyramid.

Of course, the Trust could come into play. However, in accordance with their regulations, should they fail to take the club in its current form, supporters will have their pledges and shares refunded, minus a 2.5 per cent fee.

That is unless they adjust their business model and go back to fans for permission to retain their contributions. Although a time frame to meet the purchase would be difficult.

Still, staying in the liquidation scenario, there is also the potential of Portpin being handed the ground back under terms of their charge.

Conceivably, liquidators could decide that approach rather than giving them proceeds of whatever is sold, which raises whole new levels of concern.

According to council planning policy, Fratton Park is designated for sporting use. What’s more, additional land cannot be developed for profit unless it has mutual benefits.

Tesco have long been interested in building on the Fratton car park and that continues to be the case – however any development must also see improvements to the football ground.

Effectively, in the short to mid-term it would prevent anyone building on Fratton Park itself.

In theory, though, if Portpin set an unrealistic high rent for a new football club -– say £1.2m a year as they did last summer – it would price them out.

With no other sporting clubs likely to want Fratton, the ground could remain disused for years to the point where the planning restrictions creak and crumble.

Certainly the owners could eventually appeal to a public enquiry for the chance to build on it.

Speaking factually and not hypothetically, the Fratton car park is now in the grasp of Stuart Robinson.

The property developer has paid a significant non-refundable deposit to Sacha Gaydamak’s administrators for ownership of the area, which includes the Rodney Road offices.

As mentioned before, building on that land needs to go hand-in-hand with the development of the stadium, hence Robinson’s involvement with the Trust’s bid.

The Trust’s announcement this week of hopes to buy the stadium outright reflects changes in funding, with the re-emergence of council help and the continuation of Robinson’s involvement.

Now all that is required is for the January 31 court case to take place – the likelihood being any valuation hearing would subsequently be held mid-to-late February.

It is PKF’s duty to reach a deal they think is in the best interests of creditors and have decided the Trust’s £2.75m offer represents that.

Alternatively, the administrators could reach agreement with Portpin, yet the charge owners are showing no such inclination to come tumbling down from £9m.

So once again all eyes are on court, with a failure to reach a valuation satisfactory to the Trust expected to prompt liquidation.

And, possibly, goodbye to Fratton Park.

 

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