Time running out for Portsmouth to find the right owner

The club could soon have its sixth owner in less than three years, but credible buyers are thin on the ground for the struggling team

Fratton Park

This week, Portsmouth hope to learn the name of their sixth owner since August 2009. In November the club's parent company, Convers Sports Initiatives [CSI], went into administration after the arrest of No 5, Vladimir Antonov, on charges of bank fraud. The previous four presided over a period of decline that included relegation, administration and a legacy of debt that will eat up virtually all the parachute payments designed to help cope with life after the Premier League, which makes finding the right buyer now essential.

Joseph Cala, a Sicilian businessman based in the US and Italy, who wants to float the club as a public company in the States, claimed last week to be the front-runner, and on the face of it he fits rather well into the extensive chapter of Portsmouth's recent history headed "You couldn't make it up."

On the one hand is his ownership of Salernitana of Italy's Serie B last February, which ran for all of 11 days: on the other, his plans for a series of undersea casinos in glass-bottomed yachts that suggest not so much a serious football club owner as a James Bond character.

However, with Pompey's cash flow uncertain and the Football League refusing to allow them to sign players without moving others out until their ownership is settled, time in which to find someone willing and able to take the helm – and pass the League's admittedly less-than-stringent fit and proper persons test – is running out.

Michael Appleton, the rookie Portsmouth manager, is in limbo, unable to strengthen a thin squad.

He was forced to field players suffering from illness and injury against West Ham on Saturday, although his patched-up team made the Londoners work hard for their 1-0 win.

"At the minute my hands are tied behind my back," he said. "If Hermann Hreidarsson goes on loan to Coventry I can bring one player in. We're scratching a starting 11 together and struggling to fill a bench."

The search for a buyer is being handled by Andrew Andronikou, the administrator in charge of CSI, who performed a similar function when Portsmouth themselves went into administration in 2010 with liabilities of over £120m. Potential buyers, he says, are not hard to find – just credible ones.

"They are almost non-existent," he told The Independent. "A number of parties are interested in getting involved with football, but not many have the financial ability and credentials to achieve it. Unfortunately, we're having to wade through a number of the proverbial tyre-kickers to get to the very few that satisfy the criteria.

"I was involved in the background at Southampton in 2009. Their administrators, rather like us, had a number of parties interested and were pursued by one main one who didn't have the wherewithal to perform.

"I actually introduced them, through a third party, to the current owner, but before that Southampton were looking down the barrel of a gun. It was an 11th-hour deal."

Balram Chainrai, the last Portsmouth proprietor but one, admitted he did not want to own the club, his predecessor Ali al-Faraj was never actually seen at Fratton Park, and neither they nor any of the others had any previous links to the club or city.

Supporters have bemoaned the fact that the club has no super-rich fans, but Andronikou does not believe that that is necessarily a better model, even though a consortium of wealthy supporters are doing well at Crystal Palace.

"Steve [Parish] bought Palace because he was a fan and there was no other buyer," said Andronikou. "He was effectively left holding the baby because of his passion.

"Being a fan is the wrong ideal characteristic. You need someone with the financial wherewithal and the vision to run a club like any other business and not be carried away by emotion."

Whoever ends up in charge of Portsmouth will find a club that has been starved of investment despite what should have been seven lucrative seasons in the Premier League. Fratton Park remains a decaying museum piece, and the club still has no training ground of its own. Debts are said to be around £33m, with the first instalment due in April of the £16.5m company voluntary agreement negotiated to bring the club out of administration in October 2010. Perhaps the surprise is that more would-be benefactors, having kicked the tyres, did not simply walk away.

Meanwhile Appleton awaits the arrival of a new employer and details of a budget for new players. "It will be the first opportunity I've had to sit down and talk about it," he said. "Once we've got new owners in, then hopefully I'll be in a position where I can actually do my job."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'