PORTSMOUTH, February 24 – Portsmouth supporters insist their beleaguered club will survive even if it becomes the first Premier League outfit to go into administration on Friday.Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai, who is Portsmouth’s fourth owner this season, is in talks with four different groups about a takeover, but he admits it is unlikely a deal will be completed in time to avoid a winding-up order in the High Court on Monday.
With no new influx of cash on the immediate horizon and the club in danger of going bust due to unpaid debts, Chainrai announced on Tuesday that he would rather put Portsmouth into administration than let the courts decide their fate because that would suspend the winding-up order.
That means almost certain relegation for Portsmouth, who are already bottom of the Premier League, as there is a nine-point penalty for any top-flight club going into administration, leaving Avram Grant’s side on just seven points — 16 behind their nearest rivals.
Playing in the Championship next season would trigger an exodus of Portsmouth’s best players, while the club will also have to find a new owner willing to deal with debts of 70 million pounds (80 million euros).
But despite the bleak outlook for Portsmouth, the club’s loyal fans, who have continued to sell out most matches at Fratton Park, believe their team will emerge intact from the ordeal.
Ken Malley, a member of the Football Supporters Federation who is on the Pompey Supporters Trust working committee, said: "I’ve supported Portsmouth for far too long to believe anything I read until it actually happens. Friday is still a long way away.
"As a fan, I’d rather we didn’t go into administration, there’s an awful lot of small businesses that lose out terribly if we do, so I’m not happy about that side of things.
"I’m just anxious that sooner or later we get some owners that are transparent and attempt to work with the community and the fans. If we get owners that do then we, as Portsmouth Trust, will be more than happy to work with them.
"There’ll always be a Portsmouth Football Club, whatever happens. A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to make sure that a phoenix would rise from the ashes in time for next season.
"One way or another, most decent football clubs are all about the fans rather than anything else at all and Portsmouth fans are here long-term, it’s as simple as that."
Jo Collins, of the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, admits administration is the best option in the circumstances.
"I suspect a lot of fans would still be hoping, even at this stage, we would get another buyer anyway, and I think there was a feeling among many that Mr Chainrai might have opted to pay HM Revenue and Customs what they’re owed to avoid us going into administration," she said.
"But I personally fully understand his motives for doing what he’s doing.
"I still cling to a little bit of hope that a buyer might pop up, a realistic one who knows what he’s doing and investing in and getting involved in, but if it’s going to be administration I think I’d have to say I’d settle for that.
"I think that probably is the next best step forward for the club — go into administration and really sort matters out.
"I think we’ve all pretty much resigned ourselves to relegation, even disregarding the nine-point deduction (in the event of administration)."