Football: Former rock singer and American property tycoon seek Portsmouth talks

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The Independent Online
A former rock musician and an American property tycoon may join forces in an attempt to take control of Portsmouth Football Club. Mark Pierson reports

Brian Howe, the former lead singer with the Bad Company rock group, is to hold talks this week with the Portsmouth director, Martin Gregory, with a view to buying a stake in the cash-strapped club.

Howe, a lifelong Portsmouth fan whose family still live in the area, has at his disposal the financial backing of an American property tycoon, Vince Wolanin. Howe was at the First Division club's defeat at Ipswich on Saturday after flying in from his home in Florida to spend a week in Britain.

He will meet with Gregory, who owns 46 per cent of the shares in Portsmouth and whose sale of a further 51 per cent share to the chairman, Terry Venables, recently reached a stalemate.

A Portsmouth spokeswoman said yesterday: "We can confirm that Mr Gregory will be having talks with Mr Howe this week, although we cannot go into detail until there is something to announce.

"Mr Howe's intentions have been well documented, but as to what might happen in terms of the club's future or stadium, we don't really know quite yet."

Howe said at the weekend: "Vince is very interested in doing a deal - building a stadium primarily. We have to sit down with the owners of Portsmouth Football Club and decide if the price is right."

A deal is not believed to be imminent because Wolanin, who earned his fortune building sports stadiums in the United States, is set to meet Gregory in Paris next month.

The issue of whether Venables will finally take up his 51 per cent share in the Fratton Park club has also still to be settled when he returns from his involvement with the Australian national side in the Confederation Cup tournament in Saudi Arabia.

Dozens of police and supporters were injured as violence erupted during four Serie A matches in Italy on Sunday. The incidents occurred at Naples, Milan, Bologna and Bergamo.

The worst clashes were in Naples, where Napoli face relegation to Serie B after being beaten 4-0 by Parma. Napoli fans responded to the side's ninth defeat in 12 matches by burning anything they could find on the terraces of the San Paolo Stadium and then clashing with police. Eleven police officers were injured in the incidents.

A mob of 30 hooligans tried to breach the entrance to Napoli's changing rooms, but were fended off before reinforcements arrived. Police had to use batons and tear gas to bring the situation inside and outside the stadium under control, cars had their windscreens smashed by rocks and Parma's team coach was pelted with eggs.

Napoli's new coach, Giovanni Galeone, said: "I can understand people's anger. The fans who care passionately about the side behave like a lover who has been betrayed.

"And when that happens, people insult each other and it can even sometimes lead to shooting and stabbing."

Napoli's Argentine skipper, Roberto Ayala, said: "I'm sorry for the fans. They had been all too patient up to now."

There was trouble, too, at San Siro after the league leaders, Internazionale, beat Roma 3-0. There were scuffles during the game and baton-wielding police had to charge the Roma fans after tha match. About 16 supporters and police officers were injured.

A man was also injured after being hit by a firework at Bergamo, where Atalanta fans had nearly prompted the closure of the stadium after going on the rampage two months ago.

A police charge was also needed at Bologna to prevent local fans from attacking visiting Lecce supporters in a square outside the stadium immediately after the game.

The tension had started even during the match, when a firework was thrown by Lecce fans after an hour's play into a nearby section of the ground occupied by Bologna supporters.

Police had to move in quickly to separate the two groups of rival supporters after Bologna's 2-0 win, but stones were thrown and rubbish bins upended during the disturbances.

The Celtic goalkeeper, Jonathan Gould, aged 29, has signed a three-and- a-half year extension to his contract which will keep him at Parkhead until 2002.

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