City Financier Harris Kicks Off Pompey Bid

The City financier Keith Harris is lining up a bid to take control of the struggling League One football club Portsmouth a year after it fell into administration for the third time.

I have learnt that Mr Harris, whose stockbroking firm Seymour Pierce is itself fighting for survival, is working with a team of experienced football executives including Steve Hamer, a former chairman of Swansea City, and John Redgate, an ex-Portsmouth finance director, on a possible deal.

It was unclear on Wednesday night who Mr Harris's financial backers are. People close to the situation said that if his bid was successful, Mr Harris would be installed as Portsmouth's chairman.

The financier is understood to have met the Football League, which he used to run, and the Professional Footballers' Association in recent days to discuss his bid. He is said to have told them that his offer would give Portsmouth a "financial clean sheet".

PKF, the professional services firm, was appointed to act as administrator to Portsmouth last year following five years of financial turmoil which had seen the then Premier League club go from winning the FA Cup in 2008 to fighting a battle to avoid relegation to English professional football's bottom tier.

"It's still not a done deal and we may not get there at all," one insider said on Wednesday night in relation to the interest being shown by Mr Harris's consortium.

Last October, PKF partner Trevor Birch, himself a former football club chief executive, named the Pompey Supporters' Trust as the preferred bidder for the club after fans raised more than £2m to commit to a takeover.

It is unclear whether the Trust has been informed of Mr Harris's rival interest or whether it continues to hold the preferred bidder status.

The Trust had been competing with Portsmouth's former owner Balram Chanrai to buy the club.

The plight of Portsmouth, which has debts of more than £50m, underlines the financial difficulties confronting a large number of English league clubs following a period of hyperinflation for players' wages.

Neither Mr Birch nor Mr Harris could be reached for comment.