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English Premiership

Give Faraj a break

PORTSMOUTH, January 12 – Portsmouth's executive director, Mark Jacob, has called on the south coast side's fans to stop giving owner Ali Al-Faraj a hard time, saying he had saved the club from administration.Saudi businessman Al-Faraj has been nicknamed ‘Al-Mirage’ by some supporters, having yet to visit the club’s Fratton Park home ground since taking over the cash-strapped side in October.

Portsmouth – who lifted the FA Cup in 2008 but have seen most of that squad leave since – are four points adrift at the bottom of the English Premier League but their off-field problems so far this season have, arguably, been worse than anything that’s happened on the pitch.

Before the campaign started, Portsmouth were hampered by the protracted takeover of the club by the UAE-based Sulaiman Al-Fahim from former owner Alexandre Gaydamak.

Fans who were led to believe that Al-Fahim would invest heavily in the club were stunned when, in a matter of weeks, he relinquished control to Al-Faraj.

However, he has struggled to raise the funds to cope with Portsmouth’s mounting debts, with Gaydamak alone saying he is still owed nearly 30 million pounds by the club.

Portsmouth have also been threatened with legal action by HM Revenue and Customs over unpaid tax bills.

Meanwhile, with the January transfer window now open, Pompey cannot currently sign any new players as they remain the subject of a Premier League transfer embargo regarding unpaid fees on previous deals.

There are fresh protests planned against Al-Faraj for Saturday’s home game against Birmingham City but Jacob said fans should stop venting their anger at the owner.

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"At the Arsenal game, there were chants which left Ahmed Al Faraj (the brother of Ali Al Faraj) – who watched the game on the Internet – most upset," Jacob told Monday’s edition of local newspaper the Portsmouth News.

"Mr Al-Faraj feels supporters do not see – or haven’t been told perhaps – what has happened since October and it was like a pressure cooker that had suddenly exploded."

Jacob added the club’s financial position was improving and that Al-Faraj had prevented the club from falling into administration, which would have led to a points deduction that would have made relegation more likely.

"With a points deduction – given the points we have got at the moment – I defy anyone to believe the club would then have survived (in the Premier League)," Jacob insisted.

"Altogether, if you look at the funds that have been generated into the club since October, you are looking at approximately 40 million pounds.

"We are very, very positive that we will be out of this predicament very, very shortly."

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