Portsmouth fans wary of Sulaiman Al Fahim's share plans
By Matt Slater
Al Fahim sold 90% of his shares in Portsmouth last October
Portsmouth fans have given a cautious response to the offer of Sulaiman Al Fahim's 10% stake in the ailing club.
Al Fahim quit as non-executive chairman at Fratton Park on Monday and wants to hand his shareholding to the Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST) free of charge.
The PST said an informal offer has been made but said more details were needed.
"The Pompey Trust is doing the right thing in their response to this apparent offer from Al Fahim," said Supporters Direct spokesman Kevin Rye.
"They need to ensure they take the right advice about the risks attached to becoming involved in any football club in the current climate, particularly for a shareholding in a business wracked with such uncertainty."
Supporters Direct (SD), which was set up in 1999 to help fans' trusts buy shares and increase their influence in their clubs, is concerned the newly-formed PST could be unintentionally exposing itself to considerable financial risk as the heavily-indebted club faces a winding-up petition in the High Court on 1 March.
They (the South African consortium) have provided proof of funds through a lawyer, but we need to see it from a bank - we need to see it, the Premier League need to see it, everyone needs to see it
Peter Storrie Portsmouth chief executive
Rye admitted SD would normally be all in favour of trusts accepting 10% stakes in clubs but said Portsmouth's dire finances made this a more problematic case.
Al Fahim, who bought Portsmouth in August only to sell 90% of it six weeks later, said he was making this offer in order to give fans "a bigger say in the future of the club".
The United Arab Emirates-based businessman first mooted his intention to hand over his shares in November and met the PST's working committee at the end of January.
He claimed his lawyers have been advising him to walk away from the club "for the last week or so" but his mind was made up when current owner Balram Chainrai and chief executive Peter Storrie emailed him to stand down.
When asked if he had any regrets about his time at the club, Al Fahim said: "Only that the way in which we managed things wasn't fair to the fans."
Club sources initially said they knew nothing of Al Fahim's plans but later confirmed they had received and accepted his resignation.
Storrie is currently in London meeting representatives from a South African consortium said to be interested in buying the Premier League's bottom club. He refused to give any further information on who these new potential owners are - they would be Portsmouth's fifth owners this season - but said talks were advanced and Chainrai now wanted to see "proof of funds".
Al Fahim, who last week had to deny claims he faces arrest in Dubai over a £1.4m business debt, told BBC Sport the South Africans "are genuine buyers" and assured fans Chainrai was wealthy enough to keep the club afloat, with or without fresh investment.
This will not reassure Pompey fans too much, though, as Al Fahim said something very similar about Ali Al Faraj, the Saudi businessman he sold the club to in October, and much the same was said of him last summer by the man he bought the club from, Sacha Gaydamak.
They will also be sceptical about talk of new investment as the last week alone has seen press reports about interested parties from Hampshire, Hong Kong, Monaco, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
So far none of these "white knights" has materialised and administration remains the most likely outcome, a scenario that would see Pompey deducted nine points. That would guarantee relegation to the Championship, but the club would at least be able to complete the season.
Hong Kong-based investor Chainrai became the 2008 FA Cup winner's fourth owner this season when Al Faraj defaulted on loan payments due to him (his £18m loan was secured against Fratton Park and the club).
Portsmouth, currently eight points adrift of safety, have lurched from one financial crisis to the next this season.
With debts understood to be around £60m and the very real threat of liquidation hanging over them, the 112-year-old club need to find £12.1m to appease HM Revenues and Customs by next Monday.
They will also be faced with February's £3m wage and tax bill on Friday. The club has been late in paying its staff in four of the last five months.
To make matters worse, on Saturday the Premier League turned down Pompey's plea for permission to sell players outside of the transfer window. It has already withheld TV and transfer payments from the club in order to settle debts owed to other clubs in the UK and abroad.
And to complete a thoroughly depressing picture, Storrie, former owner Milan Mandaric and ex-manager Harry Redknapp are all due in court to face their own tax-related charges, and Arsenal defender Sol Campbell is suing his old club for £1.7m in unpaid bonus and image rights payments.
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