Portsmouth's High Court Hearing Postponed

The future of Portsmouth remained unclear on Friday after a High Court hearing relating to a planned supporters' takeover was postponed to allow further discussions to take place.

A judge adjourned the case until January 15 but gave all sides the option of making an earlier court application on 48 hours' notice.

Portsmouth - struggling near the foot of League One - were placed into administration earlier this year.

They are currently in the hands of PKF, headed up by Trevor Birch, and they are trying to secure the sale of Fratton Park to the Portsmouth Supporters Trust (PST) from former owners Portpin.

Following the adjournment, the PST issued a statement which read:

''Although it is frustrating not to have a final outcome this week, as we had hoped, we welcome the opportunity for the administrators PKF to return to the courts between now and January and finalise our purchase of Portsmouth Football Club.

''This has always been a complex deal with several component parts - including some which have been outside of our control - and every part of the bid needs to be absolutely right to be approved by the courts and the administrators.

''We know any delay is frustrating for fans but we are committed to completing the purchase of Portsmouth Football Club as soon as possible.

''We are extremely grateful to our supporters for their terrific support and we continue urging our fans to pledge and be part of the biggest community club in the country.

''We are confident we will be owners of Portsmouth Football Club in the next few weeks and will continue to work on every last detail of our bid until this process is complete.''

Earlier this week, Brendan Guilfoyle, acting for the P&A Partnership, had said Portpin wanted his firm and not PKF to handle any sale but change has yet to be made regarding the club's administrators.

A group called the Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST) has put forward a takeover proposal which Football League bosses say has ''merit''.

But league bosses say outstanding issues - including a problem about the ownership of the club's Fratton Park stadium - have to be resolved before the trust's bid can be fully considered.

A judge placed Portsmouth into administration 10 months ago after being told that the club had an unpaid tax bill of about #2 million and owed other creditors about the same.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Sales, sitting at London's High Court, was told by Katharine Holland QC, for administrators PKF, that discussions were taking place with representatives of the club's former owner, Balram Chainrai's Portpin.

The case returned to court today when Ms Holland told the judge further discussions had ''not produced any fruit'' that would enable the court to make any orders and the uncertainty was continuing.

As club supporters listened, she asked for a postponement until January 15 when she said it was hoped directions could be given for a substantive hearing.

But if the situation became ''more certain'' before then, an earlier application might be made to the court, said Ms Holland.

Richard Sheldon, appearing for Portpin, repeated a statement made yesterday that his clients were anxious that Portsmouth did not go into liquidation.

He said Portpin was prepared ''to put their money where their mouth is'' and offer to fund the continuation of the administration, but wanted Brendan Guilfoyle, ''an experienced administrator'', appointed in place of PKF's Trevor Birch.

Mr Sheldon said of Portpin's view of PKF: ''They have lost confidence in these administrators - not least in the way this application has been presented to the court.''

Drafting of the sale and purchase agreements in favour of the PST, and the evidence in support of the application, ''contains a basic error'', and this had been admitted, said Mr Sheldon.

''It may be that an urgent application (to the court) will have to be made next week,'' he added.

Ms Holland said she ''absolutely refuted'' the comments being made by Mr Sheldon.

Cutting both sides short, the judge said he was not prepared to listen to ''strongly-held views on both sides'' when he was not being asked to make any order today.

He directed that the case should come back to court on January 15, or earlier on 48 hours' notice.

Later, the Pompey Supporters' Trust said:

''Although it is frustrating not to have a final outcome this week, as we had hoped, we welcome the opportunity for the administrators PKF to return to the courts between now and January and finalise our purchase of Portsmouth Football Club.

''This has always been a complex deal with several component parts - including some which have been outside of our control - and every part of the bid needs to be absolutely right to be approved by the courts and the administrators.

''We know any delay is frustrating for fans, but we are committed to completing the purchase of Portsmouth Football Club as soon as possible.

''We are extremely grateful to our supporters for their terrific support, and we continue urging our fans to pledge and be part of the biggest community club in the country.

''We are confident that we will be owners of Portsmouth Football Club in the next few weeks, and will continue to work on every last detail of our bid until this process is complete.''

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