Supporters Direct’s Ben Shave reflects on how a fellow trust is working hard to rescue their club from the brink of financial meltdown. (Originally published in the AFC Wimbledon v Southend Utd matchday programme, 20 November 2012.)
This is a busy time of year For everyone. Christmas is on the horizon, fixtures are starting to come thick and fast, and – for many clubs – the squeeze is starting to be felt. With the summer transfer window a distant memory and the January sales still not close enough for comfort, it’s during November and December that many lurking financial concerns come home to roost.
This is something that we at Supporters Direct have learned in our years of working with supporters’ trusts and supporter-owned clubs. Many of the first steps towards ownership or greater influence have been taken during this time of year, though the campaigns were not always realised until the clocks went forward once more.
In some cases, such as at Portsmouth, the process unfolds over months and years. But for what journalist David Conn recently described as “one of the most unhappy sagas in English football’s history of club ownership”, an end looks like it could be in sight, after the news that Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST) have been named preferred bidders for the club.
Many of you reading this programme will already be aware of the PST story, and of the enormous effort they have put in to reach this point. Formed during the club’s first period in administration and officially registered in December 2009, PST have been the one constant in a dizzying cast of characters to arrive on the south coast. Despite the ever-changing situation, they have stayed true to their original mission statement: “to bring about responsible, democratic representation at Portsmouth Football Club and so help promote the highest standards of transparent governance and accountability, and to embed Portsmouth FC deeper into its community through greater communication and cooperation with its fans”.
Having watched their club teetering on the brink of collapse for much of the past three years, PST realised some time ago that the only sustainable future for their club was community ownership. As the Community Pompey website (the hub for their ownership scheme which has been developed with advice and support from Supporters Direct, among others) states: “Our club or no club, the choice is simple.”
Securing preferred bidder status is, of course, only the first step, and there is a lot of work still to do. But the support – from fans, from the press and from politicians of all persuasions – shows that the momentum is clearly with the Pompey Supporters’ Trust. A forthcoming share issue will seek to capitalise on that, and allow the fans to take control of the club’s destiny, protecting the legacy for generations to come.