Part 6 – The Russians are coming!
Can it get any worse? This was a common question uttered by many stalwart Pompey fans who had endured the previous torrid 24 months. Having managed to stay one season in the Championship, 2011 proved to be a case of deja-vu in many respects.
Spring had come and gone with the PST no further forward in terms of direct working relationship with the Owner even though the CEO David Lampitt and the Administrator were making nice noises. It seemed clear to me that PST was being tolerated only due to massive support from the Media and the wider football supporters’ community if not the Governing Bodies. Life in the imagined by some PST Ivory Tower was anything but comfortable by now. Internally the PST was enduring a difficult period, with 3 elected BM’s Brendon Bone, Mark Dugan and Barry Dewing having left citing pressure of work, other commitments or general dissatisfaction as to its direction.
Given the immense pressure/commitment of handling a full time job on top of an existing one, resignations were anticipated at least by me whilst being a face of PST was certainly no cakewalk. On the plus side Steve Hatton had joined and took up what I personally felt was the 2nd most important role that of Membership Secretary, with a simple brief of getting the records and database in order. Membership itself was holding up reasonably well but discussion about how to generate real income sufficient to raise the required capital with which to make a realistic offer to purchase at least a share in the Club remained a distant prospect.
That became an even more remote when in June 2011 it was announced rather out of the blue for some that a Company by the name of Convers Sports Initiatives (whose principle was a Russian by the name of Vladimar Alexsandrovich Antonov) had done a deal to take control of Portsmouth Football Club via its own newly created operating company. The exact terms of the deal were shrouded in mystery at the time as the usual rhetorical packed good news, bright future statement issued by new Owners cast an immediate shadow over the future of PST.
On the face of it most Pompey fans now tired of the endless legal battles, last ditch rescues of the Club from oblivion a burdening CVA revolving door that had seen dozens of players come and go and 3 managers to boot and a perception that PST was just treading water the prospect of almost divine intervention to save their beloved Club could be forgiven. The impact on the PST was almost immediate. Tacit and vocal support dropped as did membership renewals media attention swung away from PST to focus on the new dawn being promised. Whilst the likes of Mike Hall and others continued to question not just the previous Ownerships and their various dubious lawyers/legal advisors it looked like the dream of a PST involvement in even some kind of part ownership was dead in the water.
The new owners quickly issued a statement complete with a 5 year plan destined to bring about Pompey return to the Premier and even Europe. As PST Chair and by now a confirmed pessimist who can only be pleasantly surprised, I responded suggesting the usual rhetoric was fine but a review in 5 months would be more revealing. I was duly castigated by some for what eventually turned out to be a prophetic remark.
At the suggestion of the Board I promptly wrote to Antonov introducing the PST and requesting early talks for the purposes of our mutual benefit. I still have the reply, from his partner Roman Dubov. It referred to wanting good relations with fans but no possibility of any shared ownership or inclusion of PST in running the Club.
So Five Year Plan then it was. Or was it?