The rise and fall of Antonov and his Pompey dream

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An aim to finish in the top six of the Championship each year with a target of 70 points – in addition to a target to strategically remove higher-earners from the club wage bill.

What about players acquired for transfer fees should not to exceed 26 years of age? Or producing at least five professional players each year from the Academy?

The grand vision and ambitious five-year plan of former joint-owner Vladimir Antonov and his company, Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI), for Pompey.

Except, his regime actually lasted just five months.

The latest twist in the fall from grace of the former Blues chairman occurred this week, following the decision to extradite him to Lithuania to answer fraud charges.

Antonov and business partner Raimondas Baranauskas are accused of asset stripping at Lithuanian bank Snoras worth around almost £420m.

Both directors deny the allegations and on Monday a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court decreed they would receive a fair trial in Lithuania, also finding no evidence of risk to their human rights.

The case does not directly implicate Pompey. However, during CSI’s brief time at the club, £10.52m was put in – an unsecured figure which would be listed to be paid back.

It was June 1, 2011, when CSI – owned 80 per cent by Antonov – purchased the Blues from Portpin, signalling a purported exciting new era, accompanied by a fabled five-year plan to transform the then-Championship club.

The Russian businessman, who passed the Football League’s Fit and Proper Person Test, was joined in the Fratton Park boardroom by minority shareholders Roman Dubov and Chris Akers, who have no involvement in the on-going fraud case.

David Lampitt remained as chief executive and the sole communicator in the opening three-and-a-half months when the new owners curiously declined to address supporters.

Dubov did issue a letter on June 18 to a fans’ conference event, in which Lampitt was in attendance, promising to meet fans when matters had settled down. That moment never arrived.

Staff at the club portray Dubov as an approachable character and a far more regular attendee at Fratton Park than the others, also instructing Lampitt to report to him every day.

In comparison, Antonov was a highly-elusive figure, barely watching matches. Yet, chiefly, the man bankrolling the Pompey ownership through his CSI commitments.

The News never met the Russian, who conducted just the one round of media interviews during his five-month and 28-day Fratton Park reign.

He quit as club chairman on the day CSI entered administration, owing Portpin £17m – five days after his November 24, 2011, arrest which prompted his assets to be frozen.

Still, on September 15, the local media consisting of Radio Solent, Wave FM, Express FM and BBC South were invited to the Snoras and CSI premises in Lombard Street, London.

The News were not included on account of Lampitt’s anger over my article on high ticket pricing and falling attendances, in which Pompey Independent Supporters’ Association’s Tony Goodall and Trust spokesman Scott Mclachlan were quoted, as well as the chief executive.

In addition, my colleague Jordan Cross’ column calling for the owners to speak rather than issue press statements apparently caused offence.

Still, those media present at the summoning say a polite and relaxed Antonov took control of the speaking – the reasoning being his grasp of English was better – and a pooled interview session lasted an hour.

The chairman encouragingly detailed his five-year plan, the development of the Academy, interest in buying land around the stadium and the desire to win over the faith of local businesses and supporters.

At its conclusion, the gathered media were sent home with a CSI goody bag containing sweets, a pen, a pad and a key ring.

Regardless, the club’s Portsmouth Live TV beat the agreed publication embargo by broadcasting interviews with the pair after a 1-0 defeat at Hull.

It meant fans would have to spend £4.29 via subscription to listen to their owners for the first time.

It would be 15 days later when The News was granted an audience.

However, Lampitt insisted it was with business editor Emma Judd.

‘If Neil Allen had been better behaved it could have been him sitting there,’ he would gloatingly tell her.

The drawback – Antonov was not present. Dubov was the host.

By that time I had already briefly met Dubov, when he accompanied Lampitt to South Carolina for a pre-season friendly against Charleston Battery in July 2011.

Our merry media band who toured with the team regularly visited a rib-joint called Sticky Fingers. It was also the place where I encountered Dubov for the first time, while he was dining with Lampitt. There were handshakes – but no conversation.

During those early days of the regime, CSI funded the relaying of training pitches at Eastleigh and bankrolled the pricy signings of Greg Halford, Luke Varney, Stephen Henderson, Jason Pearce and Erik Huseklepp.

Lampitt claimed Fratton Park improvements were made, including the ladies’ toilets. Although, it has been proven they never instigated any interest in buying Sacha Gaydamak’s land around the ground.

They removed long-standing boardroom stewards and replaced them with attractive young ladies who spoke both English and Russian, while organised a charity match with Russian outfit FC Rostov.

And of course, they drew up that five-year plan, a document which The News possesses a draft version of dated October 15, 2011.

Entitled ‘The Blueprint’, catchlines of ‘People, fans, community, pride, faith, courage’ proudly adorn every page of the 29-page dossier.

Contained within are objectives and goals of the CSI regime which the following month, on November 29, sunk into administration.

In reality, it is nothing more than a rambling wish list, full of footballing ideals in bullet points and single lines with absolutely no detail of how such, admittedly applaudable, aims would ever be met.

Unquestionably, it would have required plenty of investment from CSI to completely transform the creaking infrastructure of the club along such lines.

Following court developments this week, the precise source of just where the money was going to come from may become a little clearer.