Many Fans are asking the Trust just what Plan B entails so we have put together this Q&A to hopefully answer the questions most fans have and also allay some fears.
We have to stress that this is absolutely NOT the Trusts preferred option, we are and always will be involved in the fight to save PFC as it is, but we have to be prepared for the worst. This plan would only become important once PFC was liquidated in the courts and not before.
What is Plan B?
The Pompey Supporters Trust have been working on Plan B based on the worst case scenario that the football club is liquidated by the courts. The majority of the work was done by the Trust steering committee back in early 2010 when PFC faced the same possibility of liquidation but on that occasion was saved by the courts. We have Brendon Bone, Neil Oakshott and Rob Haines amongst others to thank.
This doesn’t mean that the PST advocate this course of action, far from it, the PST will always seek to save PFC in its current form. It is because of the situation we again find ourselves in it is becoming very difficult to say with any certainty what’s going to happen over the coming weeks and months.
If the worst does happen, one thing for sure is that no Pompey fan will want this to be the end of 114 years of proud footballing history that has woven the football club into the very fabric of the City.
Plan B is about being ready to reform the club at the highest possible level ensuring that Portsmouth City has a football team whilst ensuring the fans and the community are at the heart of any new club and it is run properly so that we never have to go through this again.
What have we done so far?
We’ve started the initial ground work and built relationships with all the main stakeholders to let people know that, if the club is liquidated, we are serious about reforming and that we want to work together to build a club we can all be proud of again.
We’ve spoken to people within the game to find out how they do things which has helped us pull together budgets, cash flow forecasts and organisational structures checked against other league and non league clubs.
Time has been spent speaking to Supporters Direct about the most appropriate ownership model that means the fans and the community are at the very heart of any new PFC.
What league would a reformed Pompey play in?
As no club has ever been liquidated from the level that PFC is currently at, it is very difficult to speculate where a reformed Pompey might end up both in terms of the league we’d play in and ground we play at.
As soon as Pompey was liquidated we would make an application to join the football pyramid as a “continuation” club which would be assessed by the Football Association. As there’s been no precedent at this level, we have been advised that the likelihood is that the FA and the Football League would sit down and carefully consider any decision. We will only have between 14-21 days to put in our application to the Football League – that must include proof of a ground, proof of sufficient funds for first year and a workable business plan.
A useful guide could be the decisions for reformed clubs entering the non-league pyramid (Conference and below). Although the league they play in is ultimately decided by the National Game Board at the FA. the maximum drop for a reformed club through this system is 3 leagues – this is guidance and not a hard and fast rule.
There are lots of other things that would be taken into consideration such as the size of support, safety and policing, ground, facilities and other technical issues.
Where would we play?
Of course we would make every effort to play at Fratton Park but at the moment it is difficult to be clear on who would own the ground. For that reason we have also looked at sites outside of Fratton and have spoken to the council and clubs involved about all the options available. As Fratton is the spiritual home of Portsmouth Football Club it would be unthinkable that any new club would not play there but if that were not possible we have to consider alternatives.
So how would it be different to what we’ve got or what others may propose?
We are sure that fans are fed up of seeing our club on the front page of the newspaper and the lack of transparency in everything it does.
If we do need to reform the club we want the fans and community of Portsmouth to own it or have a great deal of influence in the way it is run. Amongst our support we have people from every profession, and every walk of life, more than enough experience and expertise to help run a successful football club. The club would belong to the City of Portsmouth, the fans and the local community.
So why is fan ownership not taking off anywhere else?
It is already a reality in many leagues around Europe and the UK. The German Bundesliga earns the most commercial revenue of any league, has the highest attendances, some of the lowest prices, and all but two of its clubs are run as supporter-owned businesses.
Barcelona the current Champions League winners are owned by their members which also applies to several other clubs in Spain in La Liga.
Closer to home there are trust owned clubs at 13 other football clubs in the UK including Exeter City and AFC Wimbledon. Swansea City are the best example, a Premier League club beating Arsenal at home in a brand new stadium, the Swans Trust owns a 20% stake in its success and has a fan on the board.
Fan ownership is a target of many other supporters trusts at bigger clubs too, as we’re seeing at the moment at Newcastle United and Liverpool.
Isn’t this about picking the team?
No. The role of the board will be to assist in setting the strategy, budget and provide the governance to ensure the football club is successful, fulfils its community obligations and grows in a sustainable manner.
The PST board will not run the day to day operation of the football club or the team itself, they would employ professionals and seek to govern and support those that do the various jobs a football club needs.
Surely fans cannot run football clubs?
Supporters have jobs, professions and careers like people in any other walk of life. To say they do not have the skills to understand or even operate a business is like trying to say that it takes a special set of skills to run a football club. A football club is not a special case, if run properly it should act like any other business.
Business and sporting interests at any club need to be balanced and that is best done through listening to and engaging with your main audience; the fans. There is no more effective way of doing this than through a supporters trust.
Active and meaningful supporter involvement is something that can enhance a club, and as fans are acknowledged as a vital component; having them actively involved can only improve relations.
So how would I get involved if Plan B had to be implemented?
Firstly if you haven’t done so already join the supporters trust. Being a member of the trust gives you the same voting rights as any other member. We’d hold elections from the membership of the trust for the board who would become the board of the football club.
With this model there would also be plenty of other opportunities for people to volunteer, put forward ideas and put the club back in the newspaper for all the right reasons.