Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt explains the plight of Portsmouth Football Club and sets out why Pompey Supporters' Trust were the right choice to take over as preferred bidders from the Administrators.
In January 2011, my colleague the Rt. Hon. Hugh Robertson described football as “the worst-governed sport in the country, without a shadow of a doubt.” Mr Robertson was speaking ahead of the most comprehensive inquiry into our national game for decades, undertaken by the Select Committee for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. After hearing from a range of witnesses, the inquiry yielded a range of recommendations aimed at addressing “financial instability and increasing levels of debt, which remains a serious problem throughout the football pyramid.”
As the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North since 2010, I have experienced first-hand the plight of one particular football club.
Portsmouth FC, and the events that have engulfed it since 2009, has been the subject of much discussion in Parliament, and of course amongst football supporters. With over 92 instances of insolvency in the top five divisions of the English pyramid since 1992, Pompey’s story is a sadly familiar one. The Select Committee and Government have been emphasising the need for reform to the game’s authorities and Portsmouth’s troubles have continually provided further weight to the argument.
So have the actions of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST). A democratic, transparent organisation of committed volunteers, PST are working tirelessly to ensure that their club is no longer subjected to the consequences of inadequate governance, unsustainable financial practices, and unscrupulous ownership.
Their proposal for a community buy-out of the club has been developed alongside a number of key stakeholders, including Supporters Direct, the umbrella organisation for over 170 supporters’ trusts in the UK. It has garnered support from all sides of the House, Portsmouth City Council, and of course Pompey supporters. I, and no doubt many other Parliamentarians who have worked with supporters’ trusts in their constituencies, have been extremely impressed with the professionalism and dedication of PST and their contemporaries, as well as the expert advice provided to them by Supporters Direct. I have seen at first hand the talent, professionalism and spirit of this group over the last few months – that is their track record, and it is an impressive one.
Last week, PST were confirmed as the preferred bidders for the club by administrators PKF – a great moment for them, but also a significant one for football. Since Supporters Direct was established in 2000, thousands of football fans have utilised their expertise in setting up supporters’ trusts, and securing greater levels of influence and ownership throughout the pyramid.
As PST ready themselves for a decisive period, it is clearer to me than ever that a community buy-out of Pompey is the only option that can balance the social and community value of football clubs with the competitive demands of the game, whilst remaining sustainable. A forthcoming share offer, developed with the input of Supporters Direct and other expert bodies, articulates their vision perfectly. Football supporters are not the cause of the game’s problems – they can be part of the solution. In them the game has a future which is not contingent on the fads of a wealthy elite. At Portsmouth there is the possibility to do something new and exciting with the power to give the entire game of football in this country a boost which can only come from reconnecting fans to their clubs.