Sulaiman Al-Fahim offered his resignation as a director of Portsmouth Football Club in a characteristically farcical fashion. Mark Murphy takes a look at this, and wonders aloud what his motives for such a decision could be. Suffice to say, he’s not terribly impressed.
What a clown. Surely only Sulaiman Al-Fahim could write a “private and confidential” resignation letter, dated 22 February 2010, that you or I could read in the comfort of our own home at lunchtime…on 22 February 2010. Al-Fahim’s resignation ought not to make a ha’porth of difference to Portsmouth Football Club it what could still be its very last week of existence. It is but a(nother) matter of comedy that Fahim should resign in this way, his definition of “private and confidential” some distance away from yours or mine.
Not only did he give his mate Anil Bhoyrul at Arabian Business magazine the story, he gave him the actual letter which, by lunchtime on the day it was dated, was an attachment to the magazine’s story. Indeed, so public has Fahim made this “private and confidential” matter that Bhoyrul didn’t even have the brassneckery to label it an “exclusive.” If Fahim had ever possessed the capacity to be taken seriously, one issue he raised in the letter would be of some concern, however. Whilst Fahim was a “non-executive” chairman at Portsmouth, he was a board member. So it was perhaps a bit off that “discussions between board members were taking place on a daily basis and I was not being invited to participate in such discussions.”
This lack of consultation forced his resignation. He received, last Monday February 15th, a draft of the well-publicised “statement of affairs” of the club, which had been requested by the High Court in London the previous Wednesday. Whether he was asked to comment on the draft isn’t made clear by his letter. Whether anyone would take seriously any comments he might provide is a moot point. But he was not in a position to comment because “I have not had, and still do not have, the necessary financial information available to me.” And that was a touch unfair, even if he immediately betrayed his terrible grasp of Pompey affairs by declaring: “I understand that a final version…may be submitted to the courts…I can neither provide my express nor my tacit approval of the statement of affairs…to be submitted to the English Courts by the Company.”
That would be the “statement of affairs” that was “submitted” to the “English Courts by the Company” last Wednesday, something which the draft he received would surely have noted somewhere. He refers to repeated requests “made by me, and by my solicitors and other advisors on my behalf” for “financial information in respect of the Company, including monthly management accounts.” He should have been getting these – if, of course, they were being produced. Such was the chaos engulfing Portsmouth during “Saudi property magnate” Ali Al-Faraj’s reign, there must be severe doubts that such documents exist. And I can’t imagine there was a set for September, when Fahim himself was in charge. After all, if they were “private and confidential” we’d all have seen a copy by now.
One also wonders if Fahim has been properly consulted over the sale of the club. Portsmouth complained that they learnt of his resignation through the media, having had no direct contact with him. But if that were so, how could they negotiate the club sale? He owns 10%, which he says he will “hand over” to the Pompey Supporters Trust. His sudden emergence as a goodwill ambassador for the Supporters Trust movement is little more than populist posturing and, cynics suggest, disposal of the legal responsibilities attached to that shareholding, which could be major in Portsmouth’s current predicament. But if there is interest in buying “the club”, surely he, as second-largest shareholder, must be involved.
Nevertheless, any sympathy for Fahim is dwarfed by the incredulity he continues to inspire. Another Arabian Business attachment is a series of seven ludicrously-posed photos of Fahim entering Dubai International airport last Friday – an airport he appears to have all to himself, apart from two hugely self-conscious-looking colleagues with smiles so forced Tony Blair would reject them as lacking sincerity. The idea is that he has returned to Dubai to face the “arrest warrant” allegedly out for him in the Emirate over a supposed dodgy land deal. Being innocent, he is more than happy to return, even though, as he himself noted last week, he is only facing a civil case, which means there is no “warrant” as such. And there certainly wasn’t anyone waiting at the airport to produce one. And, remember, this is a man who sends a “private and confidential” resignation letter to the WORLD WIDE WEB at the same time as he sent it to the organisation from which he is resigning. “I regrettably have to resign as a director of the company with immediate effect”, his letter concludes. The regret’s all yours.