I don’t really know how to begin a post like this. So much has happened, it really should be covered in a number of separate articles. But to be honest, I think it can easily be summarised into one statement.
Portsmouth have narrowly escaped administration by securing new ownership, while manager Paul Hart picked up the side’s first three points of the season against Wolves.
First, let’s talk about the new owner, Saudi Arabian business tycoon, Ali Al Faraj. Representatives for Mr. Al Faraj met with chairman Sulaiman Al Fahim and associates of Sacha Gaydamak on Monday. A deal was concluded later that day which saw Al Faraj buy a 90% majority of the club’s shares. Al Fahim was left with 10%, with the guarantee he could remain as non-executive chairman for the next two seasons.
Reports circulated later this week that Al Faraj had bought the club for the unbelievable amount of £2. He is also said to have an option to buy the land surrounding Fratton Park, owned by Sacha Gaydamak, for half the price, £1.
…I could have bought the club for that price?
Of course, no football club comes that cheap, with Al Faraj assuring he would pay off the club’s remaining debt in due time. The latest coming out of the club is that the infamous debt has been reduced to £10m.
Some fans may be asking, ‘Why can’t he clear the debt in one large sum of money?’ Unfortunately, that answer is yet to appear. But the important thing to remember is that the debt is sustainable, particularly with the new wage structure implemented by the club.
Rumours suggest the club isn’t prepared to offer wages excessing £30,000 per week anymore, considering the huge wages were a major factor in contributing to the club’s unmanageable debt.
Speaking of wages, certain tabloids and sport journalists had great pleasure in revealing last Friday that a number of the Portsmouth players hadn’t been paid their month’s worth of work.
While the Pompey players were in good spirits, the reports all but confirmed that Sulaiman Al Fahim did not have the finance to run a Premier League football club, let alone a Conference side.
Al Faraj got to work right away after sealing his takeover, by paying the players their wages on Tuesday, with ‘keeper David James admitting it was a huge relief for all concerned.
Although hard to believe, CEO Peter Storrie has found the club a new owner who is more media-shy than Sacha Gaydamak – he is definitely a huge contrast to Al Fahim, whose career has been based on showboating to the media.
Al Faraj has not arrived alone, bringing in advisor Mark Jacob to the board of directors. Jacobs is a lifelong Spurs supporter (good timing), but already looks media-savvy and one to rely on when malicious reports appear.
So, after paying the players wages, reducing the club’s debt, what else could Al Faraj do?
Well, he could hire an experienced football professional to assist Paul Hart with the first-team, someone like Avram Grant?
That’s what he did. On early Wednesday afternoon, Avram Grant was announced as Pompey’s new Director of Football, a role he held previously at the club under Harry Redknapp’s reign.
This confirmed in my opinion that Al Faraj had money available, while Grant’s experience in the game will prove useful for the upcoming battle ahead.
While many newspapers took the liberty to question Paul Hart’s future after the announcement, Storrie assured Hart his job was safe, and that Avram would keep his distance, acting as a link between the first team and board of directors.
In further developments however, Grant revealed he would be acting on the touchline, alongside Hart. To me, this sounds more like a joint-managerial role than a manager and a separate director of football.
It’s an interesting affair to watch, but the outcome I feel will end with Grant as manager. I hope I am wrong however, as Hart deserves a lot more, after unifying players in times of struggle and bringing in hard-working players on a shoestring budget.
One last comment on the new owner before I move on, I do find it slightly suspicious that no trace of him can be found on the Internet, concerning his business affairs, his personal details…his existence.
I just find it bizarre in this day and age, that a man who is supposed to be a ‘billionaire’ cannot be found.
Some may argue his secrecy is a good thing, why reveal how much money you have? Transfer fees are only going to inflate. You only have to look at Manchester City to see the evidence.
He is said to hold a stake in SABIC, a company that deals with chemicals, plastics, petrol etc. They generate billions in revenue each year, so it suggests there is some money available. That is, there’s always a money source.
Al Faraj is said to be a keen property investor, a man forty years of age, with a keen interest in redeveloping Fratton Park and continuing work on a training ground.
After reviewing the length of this article, I have little space to comment upon Pompey’s recent league efforts. To sum up in a number of words, that win against Wolves was a long time coming. We’ve played extraordinary well in recent weeks, while it was great to see Steve Finnan make an assured debut at right-back.
Credit is due to Hart, he finally got the bit of luck he needed, while him dropping Mokoena, and as captain, was an inspired and brave decision to make.
We can all look forward to next Saturday’s match against Tottenham, or the Pompey rejects, with a bit more confidence.
What is for certain, it will certainly be a highly-charged affair.
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