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Pompey takeover suiting all parties

Thursday 24th October 2013 16:03

Ashley Brown: Along with Iain McInnes has added stability

Ashley Brown: Along with Iain McInnes has added stability

Portsmouth FanZoner Dan Brett believes Portsmouth are heading in the right direction after the fans' takeover of the club.

Portsmouth Football Club celebrated their six-month anniversary of Supporters' Trust takeover last weekend, capping off a whirlwind half-year at Fratton Park.

On April 10, 2013, Pompey's prospective owners - the fans - were glued to television screens, radios and mobile phones, waiting with baited breath on the outcome of the High Court hearing between the Pompey Supporters' Trust and Balram Chainrai's Hong Kong-based company, Portpin.

And when confirmation of an out-of-court settlement between the two parties broke, a large rainbow could be seen over Fratton Park; confirmation that the club had finally been returned to its true custodians - the supporters.

Since then, change has been evident at the club - Guy Whittingham appointed as full-time manager, along with new shirts, new ticketing systems and, of course, 16 new players to be moulded into the squad that would move the South Coast side into its new dawn.

One thing that was not to be lost, though, was the club's identity - first and foremost, as a community club, working closely with its constituents to ensure that the club would move on to be run in an ethical and transparent way.

'By the fans, for the fans', as the motto read - and something that humble Trust chairman Ashley Brown was keen to remember.

He said: "It's not so much a new identity as stepping back to an old one. Pompey have always been known as a club that operates at the heart of the community - we're just getting back to the days where the whole city embrace the football club and wanted to be a part of it win, lose or draw.

"All of us involved find it a tremendous honour and responsibility. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to steer Pompey back onto the right path and are determined to do an effective job for our club's amazing fans."

Over the past two administrations, spanning just an eye-watering five years on the South Coast, hundreds of staff were forced into redundancy as a tyranny of mismanagement reigned over the club.

Friendly faces from the shops, bars, ticket offices and behind-the-scenes offices axed without thanks, as financial belts were tightened beyond breaking point, with playing staff begged by supporters to offer up their wages to ensure the club's survival.

This time around, though, Brown quickly moved to praise those working hard at Pompey; many unsung heroes who have worked tirelessly to make sure the club was ready on-and-off field for life in the fourth tier.

He added: "We'd spent so much time together fighting for the club's survival, that we actually operate fairly well as a team.

"After the takeover, there was a huge amount to do prior to the start of this season; new shirts, new retail operation, bring kiosks and hospitality in house, new ticketing system and not forgetting a new team!

"The staff at the club have made a massive contribution into making all these things happen and deserve our thanks and, in some cases, probably a rest."

Of course, without the fans, there simply wouldn't be a Portsmouth Football Club - thousands of supporters flocking to their nearest building societies, carefully counting the coffers to afford their own community share.

Even school children and teenagers, who had all-but a handful of shrapnel as pocket money, went above and beyond to raise money to save their beloved club; fans who will go on to support the Blues for decades to come; and one day, instil that same desire, passion and belief into their own offspring.

But the club have done one better, making engagement between club and its supporters a priority, to repair burnt-but-not-broken bridges after many fans turned away from Fratton Park, after seeing their club pulled from pillar to post by several different owners, will their own personal vendettas.

Micah Hall, whose series of eye-opening blogs which exposed much of the goings on at the club, was hired as Engagement Officer in an attempt to recognise areas where the club could give back to the community, and bring fans back to Fratton.

And with season ticket sales of over 12,000 and an emphatic travelling support, Brown stated his belief at just how pivotal the fans are in being the heartbeat of not just the football club, but the city as well.

"The fans are the lifeblood of the club, it's obvious that we survive because they come through the gates; but actually its much more", he added.

"Our fans have long been known as the twelfth man, and whether it be home or away, the fans support can make a real difference to how the team performs on the pitch. One of our key objectives has been to engage with all fans new and old, male and female, young and old.

"It's all about inclusion and we want as many people as possible to embrace the Pompey spirit and get behind the team in anyway we can. So far I think we're well on the way to winning back fans as well as creating a number of new ones."

Despite back-to-back relegations, and more points docked in five years than Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll's combined goals tally at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, fans of both genders and all generations have returned to watch their side; a feat which has boosted the club's first-year projections by over £200,000.

And, despite a less-than-impressive start to their League Two campaign, the Fratton Faithful continue to flock across the country to support their side, averaging more in away crowds than the majority of their divisional rivals have amassed in home support.

Ten games into the season, Pompey occupy a respectable 15th place; however, knowledge of six points dropped on the road at Accrington Stanley, Cheltenham and Burton Albion, coupled with three red cards in as many months, gave fans reasons to worry.

But despite fingers pointed at the direction of the dugout, Whittingham moved quickly to bolster his squad with three new players; a move that has since seen the side beat Rochdale at Fratton Park, in a comfortable 3-0 scoreline, and show much-absent last-minute grit at Oxford United to progress in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Then followed a well-deserved point at Plymouth Argyle, and a not-so-resounding win at home to Bury, which brought the South Coast side to a run of four games without defeat - their first run of results to that ilk since March.

Optimism restored at Fratton Park; but whatever the outcome this season, it very much remains a club that was won by the fans, and now, run by the fans.

Dan Brett is a freelance journalist and touchline commentator for Pompey Player and the city's local community radio station, Express FM.



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