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


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

10 thoughts on “Portsmouth FC: Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one

  1. So are you going to put £5 million into the kitty or donate £15 a month for players – that are paid massive wages? Or just wait until FP crumbles around us?

  2. The facts remain that Fratton Park is not in a good way. The presidents have ruled out putting extra money into the club and only around 400 people have pledged to give another £1000. With £900,000 in the club accounts that leaves a deficit of £4.1m

    It’s all well and good relying on fans generosity and god knows Pompey fans are some of the most generous but that only goes so far.

    The Trust document states that under the Fan ownership model our budget for next season is going to be £3,000,000 but with the average league 1 budget at £3,300,000 that consigns us to league 1 mediocrity.

    As a Pompey fan I am ambitious and don’t want limits on the clubs potential success. Yes Eisner’s initial investment looks somewhat underwhelming but the facts of the matter is that he doesn’t want to lay out his long-term plan until he gets into the club.

    If we remain in league 1 (as our budget suggests we probably will) I can see gates dwindling. I will buy my ST regardless but there are always fans who only go when the club is successful. The playing budget is then likely to be hacked-at further to fund stadium work.

    My biggest fear is for our great club to be resigned for lower league football forever and be forgotten by the rest of football.

    There is then the matter of long-term. What happens when the stadium crumbles more. It’s a beautiful stadium but its only going to get worse over time. £5m is going to be difficult to find now. What about if we need £10m in the next 10-15 years?

    I’d much rather an owner now that we can properly vet. If we do need more money later we will practically beg someone like Eisner to take us over.

    Michael Eisner cannot be compared to the owners who destroyed the club in the past. He has a clear wealth he made it in the right way. Ask yourself why would Michael Eisner buy PFC, probably the most difficult club in the UK to purchase unless he was committed to doing the right thing.

    Regarding fan representation Michael Eisner doesn’t want this because it slows down any decision making. A fan on the board means he has to get approval from them for anything to be passed. A fan would also have no veto powers but would be privy to club accounts etc something that I can understand Eisner doesn’t want shared as people can often misinterpret the information.

    If the PST can come up with a long term solution to Fratton Parks condition of course I’d love to be fan owned but I honestly think that eventually we’ll have to let go of the reigns of fan ownership eventually anyway.

  3. What an awful bias article. The clubs crest has been changed many times since I’ve supported Pompey, did the current owners not change it?

    You’ve read into the bid what you have wanted to, there is no move afoot, he is merely following FL rules and trying to tell fans he’s not moving us to Guildford.

    The PST are currently putting together their presentation, says it all, look out for their fag packet, it’s on the back.

  4. Your view of Mr Eisner is I feel insulting, he is a man of proven integrity, he should not be included with former owners. If people follow your selfish attitude Pompey will struggle to survive, We have a great chance here, we have hope again,
    Could it be you want to hold on to your shares at the expense of our future.

  5. Not sure you have read the whole document. The stadium needs £5m spent on it & if this money cannot be raised, what will then happen?

  6. “boosted by share issues, crowdfunding, bond issues, dynamic marketing” and don’t forget notes to Santa Claus.
    Ridiculous, just plain ridiculous.
    5 million bill coming up to keep the ground going. Less than a million in the bank.
    Cut out your ego and support your club!

  7. No way is this a knock down price. The shares are set at a face value of £1000 each hence £5.67m.
    The only assets of PFC are the players, the ground and the Tesco money. The ground is worthless for all practical reasons, development is nigh on impossible due to planning conditions and the earth in which it is situated. The sale of the players will not realise more than a £1m. So Eisner is valuing the club at about twice the real value, and that’s being generous.

  8. What a poorly written article; you have clearly done no research on Mr Eisner’s proposal. I strongly suggest you listen to his interview on Express FM from 03/05/17.

    The club urgently needs to raise £4.1 million for stadium repairs, without which there is a strong possibility that stands will close. There is no way the fans could raise that kind of money. Mr Eisner is a hugely respected businessman with a proven record of success; certainly in another league to the dodgy owners that plagued the club before.

    If the bid is rejected then Pompey will be left struggling in League One with a dilapidated stadium and no money to fix it. If the bid is accepted then Pompey have a chance to climb back up the leagues with an owner who is willing to invest equity to improve Fratton Park and the academy. This could potentially be the best thing ever to happen to Pompey.

  9. Pingback: Portsmouth Football Club ownership – the fans must now decide | A 'one click' guide to Pompey ownership

  10. Couldn’t agree more. Keep the club in your own hands, even if it does mean: no PL. If you give the club away now you will never get it back again. Up Pompey as a fan owned club, whatever level you play.

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