Between January and May 2010 the PST SG was meeting on a regular basis at the Good Companion pub under the watchful eye of Mark Dewing.
Reality had by now set in. The mountain that needed to be climbed was of Everest proportions with a sharp face of the Eiger north face. By the time of the 1st open meeting, held at the Rifle Club in January 2010, the precarious financial position of PFC was had become crystal clear. The turmoil at the Club had begun in late 2009 following withdrawal of funding by Owner, Sacha Gaydamak. The writing was on the wall. Mounting debts exacerbated by a lop sided pay structure involving not just players but over staffed top heavy senior administration set it into a rapid downward financial spin.
The all too predictable non-payment/withholding of Tax had led to a Winding Up Petition being issued by HMRC. Staved off temporarily by arrangements to discharge by Balram Chainrai and his partner Levi Kushner now holding the reins via their Company Portpin Limited another soon followed. PST had been set up to consider two key objectives. One to take over the Club in its now parlous state or in the event of the existing Company being wound up set up a new company to start afresh from scratch as had Aldershot. Neither were appealing prospects.
‘Plan A’ as it was called, was to take on the Club from the existing ownership or out of any administration required huge financial clout which PST did not have. Plan B to start a new one fell onto the shoulders of a team outside of the PST Steering Group. It was mutually agreed that the Plan B group would operate independently of the Trust but would keep PST advised of progress. Indeed on several occasions a Plan B representative attended SG meetings to report on progress.
The SG was by now hyper active in all areas. Establishing sub groups, setting up or sorting out the required support structures that were needed. Key areas such as establishing a membership data base, bank accounts and a web site. An extensive list of activities, monitoring legal battles going on the tug of war developing over ownership of PFC, members answering questions service, organising fan meetings, road shows dealing with media both national and local, took up a huge amount of time. Fortunately the SG was sizeable packed with volunteers some with the relevant skills and expertise. Among those who attended the very regular meetings were Matt Partridge, Richard Sexton, Pam Wilkins (Minutes Secretary) Steve Compton, Barry Dewing, Tony Goodall, Tony Foot (PST Secretary), Mark Dugan, Colin Farmery, Ken Malley, Mike Hall and Bill Gillon. Others who sometimes attended were the likes of Jake Payne and Jim Riordan, whose lengthy association with Pompey and journalistic background proved invaluable.
Others prominent in the early days who contributed behind the scenes in some way included Brendan Bone, Bob Beech, and even Mr Portsmouth himself John PFC Westwood. Matt Partridge, the youngest representative on the SG helped set up the Web Site and online membership payment facility, Mark Dugan took on the tedious and frequently problematic role of membership records together with looking after the bank account.
Mike Hall began to focus his investigatory tendencies on digging the dirt on those perceived to have brought PFC to its financial knees and stripping it’s assets. Meanwhile, Colin Farmery and myself handled the media on what seemed a day to day basis. Talking of which Neil Allen and his colleagues at The News gave the PST huge positive coverage and support as did some in the main stream media notably David Conn at the Guardian. At times a reporter plus camera crew from Sky seemed to be a permanent fixture in Portsmouth such was the interest in the plight of the Club.
The plot, as they say, thickened during April/May as the team on the pitch nosedived its way down down the championship with the threat of liquidation and being unable to complete the season looming like the proverbial Sword of Damocles. One ray of light was the increasing support the PST was beginning to receive from the wider football community. Local politicians began to open up with discussions in the House of Commons and major questions asked about how the situation in at the Club had been allowed to develop. With PST now being seen as something of a torchbearer for Community Club Ownership, James Mathie at Supporters Direct continued to provide help, advice and assistance although even he admitted to some that the ground PST was heading towards was unchartered territory.
But by now the very existence of PFC as an ongoing entity had reached a crisis point.