A SPIDERS WEB OF INTRIGUE
The period from January to May 2010 highlighted the shambles internally at the Club.
By March 2010 the debts were escalating almost daily. Reports of it being over £130 million or higher cast a huge shadow over the future. Whilst PST was by now having to focus on its first Election the prospect of there not being a Club to take over in any shape or form loomed larger.
As the legal battle waged ever fiercer, more and more evidence began to emerge just how bad the finances were - coupled with more startling evidence of how the Club as the trading entity of the then existing operating company was being passed around as some kind of hot potato among an increasing number of so called investors with ever more sinister and mysterious backgrounds.
When the PST (represented by Ken Malley) attended as part of a group of Portsmouth fans representing the fans it began to emerge just how weak the Premier Leagues “Fit & Proper persons test” was. What the PL more or less admitted was that provided a prospective Owner had no criminal convictions in the UK he/she/they could own and control a professional football club.
When the background and previous history of some of those now working at the Club and with access to the significant sums of money still due to the Club from the PL began to come to light, alarming was not the word. SOS Pompey with the quiet backing of PST led a protest at PL HQ ridiculing the Fit & Proper Persons Test. The National & Local Media also focused attention on its inadequacies calls began for Select Committee style investigations into how the game was run.
PST maintained a high profile media wise during this period, providing much opinion and gradually putting into place the mechanism it needed to function. Not without many teething difficulties it has to be said - problems with Bank Accounts due to (as PST saw it) incompetence and often unhelpful attitudes at the Bank emerged as did record keeping of the membership partly due to the information being supplied by members.
It was clear that a dedicated membership Secretary would be needed soon and preferably one with IT skills to match. Around this time ownership of the Club to the objective observer resembled a half eaten bowl of spaghetti. For some time and certainly since the PL arrived Clubs had become mere pawns in the wider world of Group Companies. Gone were the quaint days of single despotic ownership, local family dynasties, local businessmen or groups such as the Butcher, Baker and Candle stick maker. It was all about Group, Holding, Shell, Dormant, Off-shore Companies and Subsidiaries merely added to the bewilderment and confused state of mind of the average fan.
PST with its on board Lawyers along with other outside help began to try to unravel the spiders web being weaved with which those running PFC hoped to deceive. Mike Hall had by now had got the bit between his teeth and like a dog with a bone began an all-out campaign to undermine and expose what had been and what really was going on behind the scenes.
In January 2010 HMRC had issued a further petition to wind up the existing company, Portsmouth City Football Club Limited. After 2 hearings early in 2010 at which a stay of execution was obtained it was Balram Chainrai & his partner Levi Kushner via their company Portpin Limited who had emerged as key player by dint of a Floating Charge.
For PST this was a significant development as the next step taken they took was to place the Company into Administration and put it into the hands of specialist Insolvency Practitioners. Their brief was simple. To evaluate the entire football business operation make radical cuts cost in staffing at all levels take full control of income streams and other revenue to generally be in total control of ongoing trading. Ultimately of course they then would have to produce to the satisfaction of the increasing array of creditors, led by HMRC, a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) setting out terms under which dividend a payment might distributed to Creditors satisfaction, then exit administration hoping to recoup their reported investment of £16 million. Given the debts it was now effectively one step from oblivion.