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Oct, 3, 2009

Portsmouth poised for new takeover attempt

The Al-Faraj brothers, who funded a £5 million loan to pay the Portsmouth players' wages, are poised to mount a new takeover battle for control of the stricken club.

• Portsmouth: The inside Storrie

The Pompey players went into their make or break Premier League game against Wolves on Saturday without having their wages paid, but with promises it would be on Monday morning.

Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie backed the Saudi brothers' first attempt to buy the club from Sacha Gaydamak when the Sulaiman Al-Fahim takeover stalled during a protracted due diligence.

Now Storrie has brought them back to help ease the cash-flow crisis which meant the players' wage cheques did not go through on the last day of September.

Storrie told ESPN Soccernet: "I persuaded them to help. Why? Because this club deserves saving and I will do all I can to save the club. There are people out there who want to help the club out, they don't want to see it go under.

"The owner, Al-Fahim, couldn't provide the funds for the September wage bill, so I had to find someone who could, it's as simple as that."

The Premier League are currently scrutinising the financial affairs at Fratton Park and would want to be assured about the future security of the club if there was another takeover.

The Premier League have brought in new rules to tighten the financial health of their member clubs. Al-Fahim was due to meet Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and chairman Sir Dave Richards on Monday - but suddenly went into hospital to have a kidney stone removed. But, I understand that the Al-Faraj brothers are sure to pass the Premier League's fit-and-proper-person test.

Outgoing owner Gaydamak is still contractually tied to payments and Al-Fahim has now borrowed £5 million from the Al-Faraj brothers, with Storrie informing ESPN Soccernet that the lawyers are working on the complexities of how that loan is secured.

Storrie suspects that there will be some tie into future ownership of Pompey, especially if the 30% of the £50 million refinancing package pledged by Al-Fahim fails to materialise by October 15, and then by the end of this month, the £1.8 million wage bill cannot be met again.

That would trigger another possible loan from the Al-Faraj brothers, but they will not do so again without gaining full control of the club's financial affairs, thereby taking Pompey over.

With such detail in the first £5 million loan, it was no surprise that the lawyers were still working overtime on the contract and the players' salaries have yet to hit their bank account.

As well as paying the wage bill of £1.8 million one of the more pressing bills is with the Inland Revenue. Normally the Revenue will allow time to pay, as it would be a hugely unpopular move to take the club to court which might then result in a winding-up order. Given the state of flux surrounding the ownership, the Revenue are sure to provide a degree of flexibility in the time scale to pay the outstanding amounts.

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