Meeting with SAF - the official record
Well the minutes of the meeting with Dr SAF have now been agreed by all concerned and you will find them below in their entirety. It is a long read folks but most of the questions you, as members, wanted raised were covered and I hope you will find the answers included.
The meeting was held in a rather surreal atmosphere due in the main to it having been cancelled and rearranged at such short notice. It was also held against the background of the possible departure of Peter Storrie as Chief Executive, a situation which partly due to the outcome of the meeting was to be averted.
The fall out from the meeting was of course the atmosphere at the Everton game the next day when staff, team and fans pulled together in a way that has bought optimism for the weeks ahead. This was completely opposite to the expected fans revolt and demonstrations which the club had feared.
There is no doubt this proves that fan power and particularly internet fan power most certainly exists.
MINUTES OF FANS' MEETING WITH SULAIMAN AL FAHIM
Friday September 25, 2009 Pompey Sports Bar, Fratton Park.
Meeting started at 19.45
Chairman - Colin Farmery (PVA)
Minutes - Bill Gillon (Pompey Online)
Available for Questions - Sulaiman Al-Fahim (Chairman and Owner of Portsmouth Football Club)
Also present - Peter Storrie (Chief Executive Officer PFC), Ivo Gabara (Senior Advisor to Mr Al-Fahim), John Lough (Senior Advisor to Mr Al-Fahim), Lucius Peart (Head of Operations PFC), Gary Double (Press Officer PFC), Johnny Moore (Supporters Liaison Officer PFC), Mark Mudie (Observer)
The floor - Representatives from: Supporters Advisory Panel, Central Branch Supporters, Chichester Branch, London Branch, PISA, Isle of Wight Branch. Websites: Pompey Online, Pompey Anoraks, truebluearmy, pompey-fans, Pompey Til I Die, Pompey Gossip, Fratton faithful, Pompey Chimes, Pompey Cardigans, Play Up pompey, Vital Portsmouth (eastneydave & paultsmouth), Venner Av Portsmouth, Training Ground Action Group.
Abbreviations used in these minutes - SAF (Sulaiman Al-Fahim)
The comments attributed to individuals are a summary of their views only and should not be used as direct quotes.
Mr Al-Fahim opened the meeting by reading a statement, the main points of which were;
- Apologised for initial cancellation of meeting
- Saw reports about club going into administration, these are factually incorrect and misleading, and are damaging efforts to find finance
- A plan is in place to bring £50 million into the club in the next three to four weeks, with debts to be fully paid off
- The financial situation of the club is a concern of everyone but is confident of the situation going forward and the club will be secure
- Focus must be on staying in the Premiership, it is early yet and we can make up ground
- He is proud to be the owner and is committed to taking the club forward
- Will invest prudently in players and infrastructure
- Revenue must be increased via academy, extra seats in the stadium and business developments
The floor was then opened for questions.
Robbie Ridout (Isle of Wight Supporters Club) - We have had two previous owners who have lacked the drive to sort out the infrastructure of the club. We have lost the core of the club itself and must get the facilities at the club sorted.
Response from SAF - He was attracted to the club by the potential for growth, and for revenue growth. The club needs stadium expansion, development of the academy and properties alongside the club, and wants to build the club and stadium heading towards 2018 and the World Cup bid.
Mike Hall (Pompey Fans) - Money tends to come from financial institutions, not individuals. Whose is the current debt, is it against the club or against Mr Al-Fahim himself?
Response from SAF - Made sure the club did not go into administration. Loans are guaranteed by himself and his own properties, so against his own funds, not the club's. There are still debts with Standard and Barclays Banks, these will be cleared in November.
Jake Payne (PISA) - We need to keep Peter Storrie at the club.
Response from SAF - Peter is the most important person at the club, is a real asset and does not want to lose him.
Dan Fearnley (Training Ground Action Group) - Why are we still talking about finding finance now? It looks like the finance Mr Al-Fahim originally had has gone, we require honesty now.
Response from SAF - Was looking for finance from Day One, but could not get finance in until due diligence was completed and there were many legal issues to be looked at over this time. It has always been his plan to achieve finance by October, and is on target for that. Is always looking for additional finance, and does not believe there should only ever be a single investor, so is actively looking for further investment and would welcome partners, has never stopped any investment.
Andrew Stillwell (Pompey Fans) - When will we be able to see the advertised 48-page document?
Response from SAF - The mention of a 48-page document was not intended for publishing in the media, but a document is currently being prepared and this will be published as soon as possible.
Graham Porter (Pompey Chimes) - Are we setting ourselves for readiness for the Championship?
Response from SAF - Nobody wants relegation, Paul Hart needs time and needs support. He has no plans to remove Hart for the next few games. The players are eager to win, and they need time. He is not concerned about relegation because he does not believe it will happen.
Jez Todd (Pompey Online) - Are the ownership papers with the Premier League?
Peter Storrie answered this one - Yes, they are, and have been for some time.
Dan Taylor (London Supporters Club) - How long have you spent at the club, and with the people there, to see how the club works and to improve relations?
Response from SAF - Have spent the last month in the US to secure the finance. Plan to stay exclusively in Portsmouth, living there, during October or November.
Simon Algrave (Pompey Gossip) - Are you going to stick with us if we are relegated?
Response from SAF - Doesn't think we will be relegated, believes in the manager and players, but is here for the long term and has no intention of leaving. Reiterates point that he would welcome additional investors and investors who understand football. Also wants to open markets in Asia, South Africa etc. (During this answer, SAF also addressed the comments he was reported to have made in Spain regarding David Villa. These comments were misconstrued, and he was referring to the fact that bigger spending by the club would have to wait until next summer).
Mike Hall (Pompey Fans) - Regarding the publicised 40,000 eco-stadium. We already have plans for a stadium drawn up, we just need the finance to take it forward. Are we going to build?
Response from SAF - Peter Storrie has shown him plans for the current proposals, both the redevelopment of Fratton Park and proposed new stadium at Horsea Island. It is a management decision about which proposal the club goes with and will look at what is most viable.
Dave Bowers (Pompey Cardigans) - Is Mr Al-Fahim going to use the media at the club to communicate, as he feels that naivety is being shown in dealing with the media at the moment?
Response from SAF - Is asked questions around the world which are misconstrued, and used the Bloomberg interview as an example, explaining that the comments he made about Portsmouth in that interview was only five minutes of a much larger interview on another subject.
Dave Bowers response - SAF has to be careful what he says to the media. For example comments about the manager's position could easily be spun by a tabloid reporter.
Mick Turnbull (Pompey Gossip) - Is it still an option to have the Al Faraj brothers as investors?
Response from SAF - It is better to have more than one investor. Has met the Al Faraj's, had dinner with them and held discussions. Invites are open to all investors and has no objection to them coming into the club, the ball is in their court.
Brendon Bone (True Blue Army) - Sacha Gaydamak is still on the Holding Company, when will his involvement with the club cease?
Response from SAF - Still have loans relating to Gaydamak, these will be cleared up by November, although legally it could go to January (confirmed by Peter Storrie).
Dan Fearnley (Training Ground Action Group) - Is the training ground ready to go and when will work on it begin?
Response from SAF - When the finance comes into the club, debts will be cleared and then the board will decide where the other money is best placed, players, training ground etc.
Dan Fearnley response - Feels we could be doing this ourselves as all we seem to be building are 'hideous loan repayments'
Response from SAF - The first job is to stabilise the club, creditors can't be ignored. Is not gambling with the investments.
Bill Gillon (Pompey Online) - How far will the £50 million go? Once the debts (which have been said to be up to £30 million) have been paid off, what will the rest do and when will we require further finance?
Response from SAF - The money will see the club through for the next year, with £10 million of the finance potentially providing 5 or 6 players, and he will seek then additional finance and/or invest himself. Again, would also welcome additional investment from other parties.
A more conversational question then took place between Mike Hall and Mr Al-Fahim, in which Mike said that, if the club was looking to build at Horsea Island, work and planning would take 5 years at a minimum owing to the legally unavoidable processes. SAF said that the club had been talking to the council and the timeframe and process would be looked at.
Mike Hall (Pompey-Fans.Com) urged him to build the stadium for which he had permission and not delay while chasing a stadium dream at Horsea
Nick Turnbull (Pompey Gossip) - The club will not get 5 or 6 Premiership standard players for £10 million.
Response from SAF - Is aware that players aren't bought in one lump sum, but in instalments. Peter Storrie is the best 'dealer' any club could have.
Nick Turnbull response - Players join clubs because of scale of salaries, and the club can't do anything if it's hands are tied.
Response from SAF - Is looking for additional investors, and the stadium will provide extra revenue in time, as will the academy.
Dave Bowers (Pompey Cardigans) - The fans wants to see something tangible at the club, when will we be able to see this?
Response from SAF - Haven't got the extra finance as yet, even though have put some investment in himself. Finance will come in in next three to four weeks.
Dave Bowers response - We want to see something solid, not talk of administration.
Response from SAF - We need to stabilise the club first.
Jim Bonner (Fratton Faithful) - You said that you wanted to bring Arab players into the club, will this happen?
Response from SAF - Would love to have Arabian players playing in the Premiership, although this can be difficult because of work permits with UAE not being highly enough ranked. Is proud to have Arabian players even training with Premier League clubs, and a dream to see the UAE playing better football as a result. During this summer was in discussion with Amr Zaki to come to Portsmouth, but has to abide by the wishes of the manager so Zaki didn't come in.
Mark Mudie (Fan) - We want to see the foundations of the club set, we need the training ground and the stadium. We have a great set up and great fans.
Response from SAF - Agrees, the design of the training ground has been set, we just need to get the investment and finance in.
Andrew Stillwell (Pompey Fans) - It seems that SAF is hanging his hat on the academy and the players produced from it. Academy itself doesn't result in success, the first team also needs investment.
Response from SAF - The academy is a long term solution, the first team is short term
Andrew Stillwell response - SAF quoted that he wanted to follow the Arsenal model, does he know how much money was made by Arsenal pre-Emirates with that academy set-up?
Response from SAF - Is not aware, but the Arsenal comment was made as an example of one club who produce players from an academy, which SAF would like to do.
Andrew Stillwell response - Arsenal made a £45 million loss pre-Emirates.
Steve Woodhead (Pompey Cardigans) - It sounds like SAF would like the stadium built at Horsea Island, but what is the earliest data envisaged to see a stadium with a larger capacity at any site?
Response from SAF - Cannot answer that at the moment. Let's get the current financial issues out of the way and meet again during the first two weeks in November to discuss further and answer further questions.
Dan Fearnley (Training Ground Action Group) - Still confused with the amount of finance. The £50 million covers the club debt but it looks like little more for anything else, we need more.
Response from SAF - The amount of debt is not publicly known. The amount is enough to clear the club debt, with enough in addition for players and the training ground.
Vern Rickman (PTID) - £50 million is not a large amount. In this city you earn respect by keeping the team in the Premiership. SAF should back away from commenting in the media, as we are being made a laughing stock with talk, for example, of the 40,000 eco-stadium
Response from SAF - Disagree, the eco-stadium would be less expensive as club will receive help with ground costs in the form of grants, and has experience of green projects with his business.
Vern Rickman response - SAF should refuse to give media any comments.
Response from SAF - One interview goes round various media outlets, with media piecing together parts of different interviews to give a misleading impression. The supporters need to get behind the club, it is the supporters club, not his own.
Matt Rogers (Central Branch) - Will the mentioned financial deal be completed on time?
Response from SAF - Yes, by October, is confident. Has been working hard on the deal, and agreements have been made.
Dave Bowers (Pompey Cardigans) - How aware is SAF of the negative media coverage he and the club have been receiving?
Response from SAF - Looks at the media and on websites, is always going to have people who want to attack.
Dave Bowers response - We need to put a stop to people ridiculing the club.
Response from SAF - Never goes out to offend anybody, always looks at websites and sees comments about him, was reading an eight page thread the other day.
The meeting completed with Mr Al-Fahim answering those on the floor a question in a friendly way, can he attend the Everton game? He was assured, yes, he could but please sit in the director's box and not wear a shirt! SAF explained that, in his country it is a mark of respect, but was informed that, in this country, it has the potential to 'look cheap'.
Meeting finished at 20.50