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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Article : How the right property deal could secure Pompey's future

Anyone interested in the development of Pompey has two main priorities: to gain ownership of the club and to ensure it can be built into the sort of club we all want it to be. The best way to do this is to kill two birds with one stone. To that end the PST are working on pulling off an elegant and creative solution.

Over the next 20 years, financial fair play will restrict clubs to spending only a percentage of their turnover on players. Owners will find it harder and harder to subsidise clubs beyond their means. Once the distorting effect of parachute payments are taken out, our turnover will be dramatically lower than anyone we hope to compete with. In other words, we will be toast, consigned to the lower divisions for ever. Pompey have to build a new future with bricks and mortar and solid, long term thinking.

We need a minimum of 30,000 seats and substantial hospitality and external revenue to be able to compete.

If we are to build a stadium, it's going to be in conjunction with a property developer. The land around Fratton Park represents a rich opportunity to do something exciting and ambitious, to build a new urban centre with retail, hotels, conference centres and so on. But without a stadium you can't do it, and that is why so many developers have been courting the Trust. They all know the Trust are the ones with a long-term vision for Pompey.

So the Trust are thinking of how they can use a long-term vision to enable the key goal of owning the club to be achieved. And here is the creative bit. If you can persuade a developer to put in the money to fund the purchase of Fratton Park, the club can transition to ownership by the community and the whole process of transformation can start.

People are nervous about the idea of a property developer having any kind of ownership or charge on Fratton Park. Whilst that is natural, the sort of deal the Trust are trying to create is one that is hemmed in with enough safeguards to satisfy any lifelong fan, which is what they are.

The general idea would be that the developer advances the money to buy Fratton Park and gives PST a long-term lease. PST would pay an affordable annual rental. If the rumours are to be believed this could be at an annual rate around what Portpin were proposing to charge the club each month.

The lease would include a buy back opportunity at a set price, which obviously over years becomes steadily cheaper.

So the net effect would be a Pompey that was paying a tiny amount of its revenue on the stadium, freeing up funds to stabilise the club and pay off creditors. Once the club is stabilised within five years or sooner, there are a couple of possibilities: the first is that the development is getting off the ground, and Pompey are handed a large sum of money, ownership of Fratton Park and building starts. The second is that the developer had failed to get the development off the ground, and PST can then use the freed up funds to repurchase the ground at whatever point suits us.

Let's not forget the most important thing of all here: without a stadium, the redevelopment can't happen. Without a redevelopment, no property developer makes money. Until a stadium is built, or being built, there is no redevelopment, no supermarket, no hotel, no nothing. Fratton Park and surrounding land remains protected to the hilt, courtesy of the far-sighted leadership of Portsmouth City Council.

All talks as I understand it remain at an early stage. However, the fact that they are even taking place tells you two very important things: The PST has the long-term interests of the club at hear; the vision and business savvy to build a new Pompey. Secondly, the fact that so many developers, including major development companies with a long track record of building big, successful projects, want to talk to the Trust tells you that once the shackles of the past are off. The Trust can bring business bucks and know how together with fans' passion and loyalty to turn Pompey back into the footballing powerhouse we once were.

There is a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt being spread by people who are desperate to find any way to discredit the Trust. They aren't having much success. The Trust continues along their stated, consistent road, progressing quietly and professionally to rescue the club from speculators and opportunists.

What these talks represent is the first step on a journey that will one day see a new stadium rise above the Fratton skyline and a Pompey that investors are eager to be part of. The Trust are not just keeping their eyes on the prize: they have one gleaming eye on a big future for the club.

Micah Hall is a Portsmouth supporter who blogs regularly at FansNetwork (access an archive of his work here) (He’s on Twitter here)

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