Portsmouth FC: Betrayal of fan ownership or a golden opportunity?

Roger Johns writes a guest piece on ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s proposed takeover of League Two champions Portsmouth…

When Michael Eisner first appeared over the horizon a fellow Pompey fan posed the question “betrayal or golden opportunity?”  

I have held off from answering until now but, having read a lot of what has appeared in the media (both mainstream and social) and listened as best I could to Mr Eisner’s recent charm offensive to community shareholders and Portsmouth Supporters Trust (PST) members at the Guildhall, I now say betrayal; on a number of fronts.

The Club Board.

Firstly let me say that I think they have done a pretty decent job of running the club day to day. They’ve made mistakes here and there but who doesn’t? However, part of the job of a Chief Executive and their supporting directors and staff is to plan for the future.  

It now appears that those plans went no further than waiting for the first apparently reasonable offer from a potential sugar daddy and the chance to get back into their comfort zone of rich owner, fans no more than punters putting money over the counter.  Where was the research into alternative ways of raising funds? Continue reading

Portsmouth FC: Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one

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Portsmouth fan Richard Holledge writes a guest post for TFN on the proposed takeover of the newly promoted League Two side…

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan gives his hero a choice. Follow the blandishments of Mr Worldly Wisemen and take the easy way to salvation or take a harder path to the Celestial City.

Or as Grandmother Willow said in the Disney classic Pocahontas “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.”

This is the dilemma facing the supporters of Portsmouth FC. A new wannabe owner is standing at the crossroads and saying: ‘Come with me.’

The temptation set out in the Supporter’s Trust info pack is that ‘one hundred per cent ownership is more likely to lead to a faster progression through the leagues – even to the Premier League.’

Ah, the Premier League, the celestial city of 21st century football.

Maybe. We know something about 100 per cent ownership in Portsmouth. Since 1959 when the club was first relegated that model has resulted in PFC spending a mere seven to eight years in the top division.

100 per cent ownership as typified by a series of incompetents, crooks and clever businessmen has guaranteed nothing. In fact, it is the cause of our present financial difficulties and has – happily – resulted in the club being bought and owned by the supporters.

So what’s on offer here from Mr Worldly Wisemen aka Michael Eisner late of Disney?

No place for shareholders on the board. No place for shareholders at all except on a Heritage panel which can make three decisions – the club’s colours, its name, and an odd pledge not to move the stadium more than 15 miles from Portsmouth.

The latter is a clear indication that a move is afoot. The design of the crest cannot be protected which, frankly, shows a huge misunderstanding of what these emotive symbols mean to a club. I’ll forbear from suggesting Minnie Mouse swinging from a crescent moon as an alternative.

The offer of forums to discuss club matters is very nice but meaningless. It’s a sop. If you own a club, you own a club and no amount of bleating by the fans will change your plans.

The money

Here’s the rub. The offer to buy our shares for £5 million and promise to invest £10 million – in an unspecified way – is not impressive. In fact, it’s a knock down bargain and if accepted does little to advance the cause.

The stadium

We know it’s the albatross left us by previous ‘caring’ owners. It seems we could truck along with current funding but on Page 19 of the statement it says ‘it costs £50 million to build a brand new stadium but there is no commitment by Tornante to carry out this work.’ Nor is it clear whether they want to separate stadium from the company. Haven’t we been there before? We have; a fate narrowly avoided when the fans took the club over.

The statement also admits the actual requirements and the costings of stadium have yet to be finalised. Do we have to build a new stadium in one go? Can we repair, fix and improve as we go along? Build a new Milton End and work our way referring the North /South stand.

In our First Division season of ’87-’88 home crowds rose above 20,000 only three times – we are not a ‘massive’ club we can afford to take time, stay solvent.

The report also makes it clear that plans are in place to see what the costs are and how they could be covered. Perhaps we need the detail on that before we vote.

In all this there is an assumption that we could never be an elite club without big investment. Well, see above, we have not been an elite club since the early Fifties.

It also makes the point that many clubs in the Championship have debts over £50 million and we know most clubs run a horrendous rates of leverage. Is that what we want?

Really? One puff of a wind – maybe a global economic crisis – and would Mr E bail us out like say, Mr Gaydamak, who owned the club when it won the FA Cup (hurrah) but, it transpired, had no actual money (not so good)?

The assumption is that a wealthy new owner will spur the club through the leagues. Older (much older) fans will be aware of huge investment in players in the 70s. It came to nothing.

Younger fans will remember the cynical way one Milan Mandaric bought the club for a knock down price and sold it some years later for ten times the amount without making any serious investment. Then we had the chimera that was Gaydamak.

If our model can get us to the Championship in a few years – boosted by share issues, crowdfunding, bond issues, dynamic marketing – then I’ll be content. After all, PFC is the very epitome of the second division side, always has been.

Above all, we have to ask why. Why does he want to buy the club? He wanted to buy Reading. Which other clubs?

We know what’s in it for us – what’s in it for him?

The fans, particularly the shareholders have taken the pilgrim’s straight and narrow path and are in this for the long run. I doubt Mr E is – that’s just not the way it works in today’s football.

I don’t want to sound too corny but what the club has now is a sense of integrity, decency and community. We won’t be citing image rights over the crest design.

It’s ours. Don’t let it be his.

@RichardHolledg1; @The_False_Nine

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On not watching football and (un)following Arsenal

TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh discusses his relationship with football since moving to America and (un)following Arsenal…

A humorous tweet was doing the rounds this week on Arsenal Twitter. The official account tweeted that it was only one week until domestic football resumed to which one fan responded, “Can you make it 2 I’m quite enjoying myself at the moment”.

A few days later, I found myself saying something similar. Catching up with a friend back in England, we started to talk about what we were looking forward to this summer. I replied, “the football season being over.”

Following Arsenal from any corner of the globe in 2017 has quickly turned into an abject misery. The season peaked in September with a 3-0 victory over Chelsea. The losers that day responded by changing their system and look set to clinch the title in emphatic manner; Arsenal, the winners, find themselves in familiar surroundings – out of the Champions League and clamouring to get back into the top four. The love affair with Alexis Sanchez is over; the closest I’ll likely get to a Chilean red next season will come in a glass bottle. Continue reading

Claudio Ranieri and the sunk cost fallacy

TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh on the sad reality of Claudio Ranieri’s sacking…

A few weeks, a group of friends and I were discussing the “sunk cost fallacy”. The theory is as follows: once a cost is “sunk” (ie. it cannot be recovered), we should never make a decision based on what has already been invested. For example, there is no point persevering with a bad film if you aren’t enjoying it – better to forget the time you’ve already wasted and watch something else. This kind of thinking can also apply to our personal lives; if a relationship is no longer enjoyable and run its course, we shouldn’t let the emotions we put in in the past affect the future. Continue reading

Kylian Mbappe and the ‘Wonder of Youth’

TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh marvels at a prodigious striker and explains why young footballers are one of the game’s greatest charms…

Watching Wednesday night’s game between Manchester City and Monaco – a sure contender for one of the best of the season – it was hard not to enjoy a breakout performance from 18-year-old striker Kylian Mbappe. Within the first 10 minutes, the young Frenchman was already terrorizing the City defence and he capped off a great first half display with a goal, a cool half-volley past Willy Caballero.

This was Mbappe’s first Champions League start and there is something very special about watching a young player rise to the occasion so capably. Putting partisanship aside, the emergence of any youngster who is ready to perform on Europe’s grand stage is a sight to be reveled in. Mbappe has already had a remarkable season, becoming the youngest player to score a hat-trick in Ligue 1 earlier this month. Continue reading

‘Do I Not Like That’ – Remembering Graham Taylor

To celebrate the life of the late Graham Taylor, TFN editor Hugo Greenhalgh reflects on the documentary that cemented his legacy as a genuine and honest football man…

In the early 1990s, Channel 4 began filming a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary about the England football team’s qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup.

The film was unique, offering unprecedented access inside the England camp that would be almost unimaginable today. Yet it also left a comedy legacy seen in characters like David Brent, Alan Partridge and most potently, Mike Bassett. This is the story of Do I Not Like That and it is one of the most understatedly brilliant in sport.

The tragic protagonist of the film is England manager Graham Taylor. After successful spells at the helm of Watford and Aston Villa, Taylor took the job in 1990, after Sir Bobby Robson had taken the Three Lions to the semi-finals. However, England’s early exit at Euro 1992 saw press criticism mount, particularly from The Sun who gave Taylor the flattering nickname of ‘Turnip’. Continue reading

FLASHBACK: David Beckham vs Greece

Fifteen years after David Beckham’s brilliant free-kick against Greece, James Dutton looks back at the moment that defined the England captain…

In English football there has always been a fascination with the individual. From the cult of the manager to the star player, the influence of one has often been viewed as greater than the collective.

It is why the job of England manager continues to be sold as among the biggest in world football; the idea that one man can turn around years of infrastructural complacency and negligence.

The Roy of the Rovers phenomenon that has gripped English football for over 50 years still dominates. It is why Manchester United ‘owe it’ to Wayne Rooney to fit him into the first eleven, why dropping Steven Gerrard in his final season at Liverpool became such a seismic issue.

All-action super-heroes and chest-thumping talismanic captains are what England specialise in. And yet, it is a country without a major honour in 50 years, who haven’t since defeated a major nation at the knockout stage of a tournament in normal time. Continue reading