I’ve been watching the debate about the PST share scheme with some disappointment at the negativity it has encountered. Twitter doesn’t allow an adequate explanation of why that negativity is misplaced, so here are some initial thoughts on the merits of the scheme.
I feel some sympathy with PST, they are against the clock on this and if this has been unveiled hastily, there is a good reason for it. There is a good chance PFC as it is now will be liquidated after the end of the season once Birch has managed to sell anybody he can. Players have to be sold before he liquidates, because on liquidation the registrations of any remaining are voided and they are worthless to him. Birch then liquidates and divides whatever meagre proceeds are left from the sale. Fratton Park isn’t worth an awful lot of money.
The scheme proposed looks like something likely to succeed over a longer timescale than PST has to buy PFC as it is. The £8m figure being quoted is daunting in such a short period of time. But since most supporters would welcome a Plan B club, there is still going to be a Portsmouth FC of some sort to support and invest in and which would not be encumbered by the liabilities the club has now. Even if someone buys PFC from Birch, I still believe ownership of at least a stake in the club by the fans is an achievable goal. So the scheme is a worthwhile effort, whatever happens in the next couple of months.
Maybe it’s that need to move quickly which has led to some of the apparent confusion in the PST response to some questions, such as “what happens if I want to invest more than £1000” or issues about finance. It’s worth saying that the Trust’s communications are better under this Board than they were in the beginning and I am sure they will improve further. I would counsel against further involvement in News Webchats, which attract all sorts of nutters and moaners, and of course all that negativity got written up into a story in the paper the day after the scheme was launched. It didn’t look good, and the next time there is anything to launch PST would do well to have its “line to take” carved in stone before the questions start coming in.
Price and finance seem to be the real causes of unhappiness with the share scheme. Is £1000 too much to ask for? It’s twice the cost of a season ticket in recent years. Many of us have paid quite a few thousand since Mandaric started cranking up prices to watch Pompey at Fratton. We have had to watch, powerless, while various crooks and charlatans had their way with the club and its money. In that context, £1000 for a real stake in the club does not seem excessive.
There will be some sort of finance scheme. One version suggested is £60 per month over two years in exchange for a share and a season ticket over the period, and it seems pretty good value to me. Even on those terms there will be people who are upset at being “priced out”, so it will be possible for people to band together and buy parts of a share (the most famous example of this operating elsewhere is the Arsenal Fanshare scheme).
It is possible for everyone to get involved in this. Not everyone can afford a full share, but then not everyone has ever been able to afford a season ticket. That’s life, but nobody looks down on the supporters who struggle to afford a couple of games a season and nobody is going to look down on anyone who struggles to get involved in share ownership.
The only real objections are from people who are convinced “it won’t work”. I think it is too soon to say that for definite, and if the club is liquidated something very much like this scheme is going to have to bloody work at some point or there will never be a major football club in this city again.
Let’s see what happens next.
Play Up Pompey!