Date:Monday February 8 2010
The minutes of the meeting between representatives of the Premeir League and Pompey fans have been agreed by both parties and are listed below in full.
They are well worth a read and you will all no doubt add your comments below.
5th February 2010 - Premier League Headquarters, Gloucester Place, London
Present from Premier League:
Richard Scudamore (Chief Executive), Mike Foster (General Secretary), Dan Johnson (Head of Communications) and Nick Noble (Press Manager)
Present from Portsmouth Football Club Fans Delegations:
Ken Malley (Portsmouth Supporters Trust/Football Supporters Federation/Vital Pompey member), Mike Hall (Pompey Supporters Trust/SOS Pompey), Scott McLachlan (London Supporters Club/SOS Pompey), Trevor Swan (SOS Pompey) and Brendon Bone (SOS Pompey Press Spokesman - Taking Minutes)
Ken Malley (KM) - Opened the meeting at 1.07pm, documenting PFC's recent history. Going back to the Gregory era, through the relatively stable years of Milan Mandaric, then the successful years under Sasha Gaydamak, followed by the more recent history, of a succession of owners including Sulaiman Al Fahim, Ali Al Faraj and now Balram Chainrai. KM also raised our concerns over a perceived lack of action and communication from the Premier League during these troubled times. Points were made to the agenda, which the Premier League was already aware of, and most recently the operations carried out in the name of PFC by Daniel Azougy. KM also thanked the Premier League for opening dialogue between the PL and PFC fans and hoped that this would mean more open dialogue between not only our fans, but also fans of other clubs in the future.
Richard Scudamore (RS) - Advised that he has been a close follower of the PFC's off field troubles right back to the Gregory era as prior to working at the PL he held the same position at the Football League. RS explained that the PL has been in regular contact with the PFC Board over the last 18 months but did point out that it is not the PL's policy to give a running commentary on the goings on at any of its clubs and therefore they will not be drawn by the press into publicly speaking about any of their members clubs on a regular basis.
With regard the Fit and Proper Person's Test there is nothing about the test that looks specifically at effective ownership of a football club. It is a legal test, to check that a person is legally entitled to own a football club. It is not a test to check whether someone has the financial capability to run a club and is not a 'motives test`, which would be virtually impossible to establish anyway. The test is applied rigorously to every current and prospective owner/director at PL football clubs. It is not a desktop exercise and business intelligence experts are used by the PL as part of it. RS did acknowledge that the Fit and Proper Person Test was not the best name for the test as it suggested that it was more than a legal test. It was only named this way as other football bodies and industries referred to it as such.
In the case of Mr. Daniel Azougy the PL were well aware of his past and as such he was barred from Premier League meetings and the PL Board refused to deal with him. All recent transfer activity was carried out and signed for by a current member of the PFC board, although to discuss who signed off the deals would be breaking confidentiality rules. The PL would not allow Mr. Azougy to sign any transfer documents or official paperwork of any kind in terms of PFC`s dealing with the League. Mr. Azougy was asked to complete the Fit and Proper Persons Test by the PL however the PL has never received a reply from him, Ali Al-Faraj or PFC Board members on this matter.
Mike Hall (MH) - Handed Mr Scudamore and the other PL members a matrix, which showed all the connections between the people who have been involved in recent dealings with PFC. The matrix cross referenced the business connections between the Gaydamaks (Senior and Junior), Balram Chainrai, Levi Kushnir, Ron Mana, Yossi Yossifoff and Daniel Azougy. Mr Scudamore thanked MH for the work he had put in, but assured the group that this was something the PL were already aware of, and that their matrix was a lot bigger! RS then advised that Balram Chainrai would have to go through the F&PPT and that he was hopeful of a meeting with Mr. Chainrai next week during which he would inquire about Mr. Chainrai`s intentions for the club and suggest that he opens a dialogue with PFC supporter groups.
The PL advised that it takes a huge interest in every club including PFC, but at present it would stop short of actually running the day to day operations of a club. Its rules do not allow that level of intervention However, sustaining every club including PFC is of utmost importance. It is not just about sustaining PFC as a Premier League club, it is about sustaining them as a football club for the future, and this was the PL's biggest concern. They advised that this is obviously a new situation to everyone at the PL and that they have been working daily to assist the club. The PL Board are encouraged by the fact that PFC now has very little debt as a club but they recognise that the playing side has been affected in order to achieve this.
MH - Mike then moved the agenda on to question 2 and asked what the Premier Leagues powers are to regulate and even administer PFC: Is this a viable option and if not how can the Premier League help us to save Portsmouth FC?
RS - Reiterated first of all that the PL has been in regular contact with PFC for the last 18 months with regard to ensuring all financial obligations are adhered to from both sides.
MH - What this basically meant now was that as fans we still have the worry that Mr Chainrai may refuse to pay the wages in the future, or of the possibility of Daniel Azougy returning to the club, what would the PL's stance on this be?
MF (Mike Foster) - As already indicated, the PL have issues over Daniel Azougy's credentials, and while he may have had some involvement in the negotiations of the recent player sales, all actual club negotiations between PFC and other clubs were carried out and signed for by a recognised PFC director. If Mr Azougy was to return to PFC, because of the fact that as yet there is not a completed F&PPT, the PL would have the powers to step in and ensure that he does not act on behalf of the club.
RS - Explained new PL rules agreed last September: From the start of this season, but being enforced when the newest set of accounts for all clubs are returned, there are new financial rules in place whereby if said accounts show anything not in line with PL rules or if they include a qualification from an auditor then the PL now has the power to go into any of its member clubs and agree budgets and impose sanctions such as transfer embargoes and salary freezes if necessary..
MF - Believes that if these new financial rules had been in place a year ago, then a lot of the recent problems at PFC wouldn't have occurred, however he reiterated that the F&PPT does NOT give the PL the power to ask owners if they have a source of funding to run a football club or demand answers to the same questions.
RS - Added that he does ask owners/directors where money to buy a club is coming from and he gets detailed answers on that, He also pointed out that from last season onwards all clubs had to publicly declare who their ultimate beneficial owner is and any other individual with a 10% or more stake in a club.
MH - Asked if it were beyond the powers of the PL to send in an observer to PFC should it be deemed necessary,
RS - Although never done before it was an interesting idea. He said the PL would give it consideration and look into their rules to ascertain as to whether it can be done.
Then moved on to a specific part of question 3 - Due to the unique circumstances that have beset Portsmouth FC, SOS Pompey believes the Premier League should accept that there SHOULD NOT be any points deduction if the club enters Administration or is taken over by the Premier League.
RS - The PL see no reason why this would be deemed as special circumstance as the only time in which the PL Board would exercise discretion on a points deduction is if a holding company suffers an event of insolvency but the club to which it is linked does not. It is virtually impossible to investigate which exact mismanagement or specific incident would take PFC into administration. It would be as a result of a number of incidents and, as such, there is no reason why a precedent would be set with regard to not deducting 9 points. The PL said that they would obviously look at any event of insolvency but, as things stand, it was highly likely that were PFC to go into administration then a points deduction would be the sanction.
Scott McLachlan (SM) - The reason for the asking of question 3, is more for the PL to show goodwill towards any points deduction and to show other fans of PL clubs their compassion.
MF - It is for this reason that it would be upheld. From a sporting point of view, it could be said that PFC were buying players out of their reach and paying them too much money in terms of their income. As such any points deductions would be fair and just on this basis alone. MF also pointed out that PL needed to be even handed to each club and that they all knew of the consequences of insolvency. It wouldn`t be fair on PFC's rivals for the PL to show them compassion in terms of the points deduction.
RS - Asked the PFC delegation to remember that should PFC go into administration it would be breaking new ground for the PL. Although it has happened to clubs in the Football League it is by no means certain that it will happen to PFC. As such any time line for the deduction of points is impossible to speculate on. However it was said that should a club go into administration, that it would not be an immediate point that at one minute the administration event happens, and a minute later the points are deducted.
RS explained that the PL is more optimistic than they have been for a long time as to the sustainability of PFC at the current time. The reasons for this are:
There is now very little bank debt within the company of Portsmouth FC
The player disposals at the club has brought the wage bill down considerably
Balram Chainrai apparently has wealth at his disposal. RS added that he would know more about Mr. Chanrai's intentions after their meeting.
RS advised against making assumptions about everything that was read regarding how the PL has acted or what is going on at PFC. The recent PFC accounts document that was released is definitely a falsehood. More than anything the timing and release date of the document proves this. (This was also confirmed by Mike Foster)
The meeting then moved on to details of parachute payments should relegation occur for PFC. The advantage of the parachute payments is obviously to cushion the blow should a PL team be relegated. PFC would still receive the parachute payments even if they were relegated and as a result went into administration. These payments would be factored in by an administrator to ascertain sustainability and give an honest assessment of the club`s worth.
SM - Asked whether the PL would see it as prudent to retain a deposit in every club as a safeguard for their futures.
RS - Said that this was an interesting idea but pointed out that the PL holds very little money as its role is to pay it out to its clubs, other football leagues and good causes. Also made the point that fans want to see investment in the club, not money sitting as deposit in a bank account The withheld money from PFC's television payments recently was the first time that the PL had actually held any money from a current PL football club. However RS did say that due to the small amount of debt and the relatively small amount of money that it would take to actually buy the club, PFC is for the first time in a long while within the grasp of local businesses/local supporters to takeover and run the club.
KM - Asked, should future payments to other clubs not be paid, could the parachute payments be withheld if needed?
RS - YES, this has been done once before in similar circumstances at Derby County. Mr Scudamore said that withholding the television money owed to PFC was a difficult decision to make as the PL had a balancing act to do in safeguarding the need for creditors to receive the money and still allowing PFC to keep operating. The PL believes it has got this balance about right. The PFC fans delegation agreed that it was the right thing to do and that while painful to see the transfer embargo in place, the majority of fans agreed with it.
RS also advised that PFC in the past have asked the PL to hold transfer fees for future payments so this hasn't always been a sole decision by the PL and it was also a JOINT decision between the PL and PFC to withhold some of their transfer fees to pay future payments to other clubs.
RS - The meeting was then moved on to question 4 - What would be the process if Peter Storrie should be convicted of cheating the Public Revenue. What will happen to Portsmouth FC?
While the PL couldn't and wouldn't comment on the specific case or speculate on possible consequences, they did say that, generally speaking, if any individual was convicted of cheating the public purse then they would be barred from being a director at a PL club. It was also said, that if an owner was to fail the F&PPT then they would be given a definitive time frame with which to dispose of/sell the club.
MF - Mr Foster wanted to assure the PFC delegation that the PL believed it was hugely important for the image of football that PFC continued to exist as a football club but that it was important to remember on the PL's part, that they have 20 member clubs and have to balance what they were doing to assist PFC with the needs of other clubs.
RS - Brought the meeting to close by saying that it was important to them that the dialogue between the fans delegation and the PL is kept open and thanked the delegation for coming to the Premier League's Headquarters.
Meeting closed at 2.17pm
Date:Monday February 8 2010
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