• Spokesman calls the sale a potential 'landmark'
• Purchase still hinges on the sale of Fratton Park
The Supporters Direct group has hailed Portsmouth's fan-backed takeover as "a landmark" moment that will set a precedent for more clubs to be run by supporters in the future. The League One club are expecting their ownership saga to be finalised by Christmas after the Portsmouth Supporters Trust last week signed an agreement with administrators PKF, although the deal hinges on winning clearance to purchase Fratton Park.
Supporters Direct, which was established 12 years ago, has helped a number of clubs through the difficult transition into fan ownership, but believes Portsmouth will be a shining light for others due to their size and stature.
"It is potentially a landmark for a club of this size to turn to this model and collectively look at the business advantage of not propping up revenue losses each year," said a spokesman. "There are clubs out there for a while that have had this model and have been succeeding, but it's fair to say this is a bigger club in terms of attendances and turnover.
"Supporters, more than any other group – more than the owners, managers and players that come and go – make lifelong commitments to their clubs and invest in them on a long term basis. Their interests and motivation are simply different.
"There is a chance to make a difference and PST, one of over 170 supporters' trusts that exist at all levels of football in the UK, have a chance to make Portsmouth the country's largest community owned club."
Exeter City are currently the highest-placed side in the Football League that are mutually owned by supporters, as are AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers, both of League Two. Swansea City of the Premier League are part-owned by fans, with the Swans Trust holding a 20% share in the Welsh club, while other teams outside the top four divisions including Wrexham, Chester and FC United of Manchester have also undergone a similar process in recent years.
The PST distributed its share prospectus on Monday, which encourages supporters to invest in the "most exciting 'fan ownership' project in the United Kingdom". The trust has already received significant funds from a number of wealthy supporters, named as "presidents", who have invested directly into Portsmouth Community Football Club Limited – the PLC that will hold membership with the Football Association and the Football League.
The prospective Portsmouth chairman, Iain McInnes, has provided £250,000 and all presidents will form an advisory board if the takeover is completed. In addition, more than 2,000 supporters have paid an initial deposit of £100 and the club are now trying to covert these payments into a minimum share purchase of £1,000 to raise more than £2m.
Ashley Brown, chairman of the PST, said: "We couldn't have got this far without our more significant investors, not just because of their money but because some of them have done a huge amount to help us with the deal. It isn't them and us, they aren't in it for the money, they're in it because they believe in Portsmouth Football Club and the concept of a community club."
However, the completion of PST's takeover is still reliant on PKF receiving permission to sell Fratton Park to the property developer Stuart Robinson for £2.6m, which would satisfy a debenture held by Balram Chainrai, the club's former owner. Chainrai has as an outstanding charge on the ground through his company Portpin, and is understood to value it at around £10m.
The trust remains hopeful that the Hong Kong-based businessman will agree to the deal before it reaches the high court, but are preparing for a hearing in mid-December. Another complication is that 11.5 acres of land around the stadium was formerly owned by a company controlled by former owner Alexandre Gaydamak, that is now also in administration.
Chainrai said in a statement last week: "The Trust's bid is conditional on securing a deal to flip Fratton Park and sell it to property developers. The money raised from that sale is vital to fund their bid and yet the rental agreement will ratchet up costs and put the club under more pressure every year that goes by."