Writer: Neil Oakshott
Date:Tuesday February 9 2010
Hearing the new round of stories about more "billionaires" looking at buying Pompey has made me sit down and seriously think about what it is that I want from the club. Know what? All I want is for it to survive and, hopefully, prosper at whichever level of the football pyramid it ends up playing in.
Since the beginning of Sky's involvement in the game we've been brainwashed into thinking that the Premier League is the only place to be and, to a point, you can see why. Unlimited amounts of money rolling in, players whose names you can hardly pronounce playing for your club, seemingly constant exposure in the media and supporters clubs springing up in countries whose names you can hardly pronounce. But what good does that really do us, the supporter?
The people who benefit are the ones at the top-level of club ownership, the manager, the players and, er, that's about it. The bulk of the staff are still employed on what amounts to little above the minimum wage, the local community might see the odd extra few quid spent on a match day as supporters queue to get their pre-match sweets from Gilberts on Eastney Road, or consume far too many of Mick's Monster Burgers than is healthy, but at the end of it would that make any difference whether we were playing in the Premier League or League Two? The queue for sweets would still be the same if we were playing Macclesfield Town instead of Manchester City, and Mick would still have to go out and slaughter the same amount of cattle whether we played Bolton Wanderers or Burton Albion (I picture Mick butchering the poor cows single-handed, armed only with a kitchen knife, but I digress).
The recent woes at Fratton Park have really put the focus on the tiny minority who actually benefit from a club doing well and, by comparison, the huge number of people that suffer when things go awry, and it has put things into perspective for me.
I consider myself lucky enough to have seen Pompey play in all four divisions since my first match in the early Seventies and much as I have enjoyed the wins that humiliated the big-boys in the PL, I probably got more enjoyment seeing Pompey slaughter Scunthorpe United 6-1 on a rain-lashed Saturday afternoon, or a Peter Denyer half-volley from the edge of the area secure a hard fought 1-0 win against Hereford United. Rather belatedly the penny has dropped and it is about the club, not the competition.
For this reason I think the tide must now turn away from the poor management we are seeing at so many clubs, the huge mortgages taken out by prospective owners in order to take over a club and the raw deal the supporter gets out of it. Why should we as supporters be paying upwards of £30 for a match ticket in order to subsidise their bad business decisions? Why should we accept the weak excuses and, dare I say at times, barefaced lies that are fed to us as placatory sound-bites to excuse their inability to manage day-to-day what on the face of it is a business with a relatively small turnover?
Therefore if Balram Chainrai is serious about turning over Portsmouth Football Club to someone who "cares", as he has stated, then he could do worse than open up discussions with the Supporters Trust with a view to a gradual handover to them. Ok, it wouldn't see Pompey competing dismally in the PL, and it may even see the club slip a level or three down the leagues to begin with, but for the first time in many decades it would give the club back to the supporter and the city. It would make it our club again and Mr Chainrai would leave the city a hero, chaired to Fratton Station by the grateful masses as he departs for Heathrow and his flight home.
Think about how refreshing it would be to know that decisions at the club are being made by the supporter - how ticket prices, kit design, programme content and the type of pie being sold in the North Stand would all be determined by the people who pay to enter the ground. And wouldn't it be nice if talk about our league position wasn't immediately followed by how many millions in the bank that equates to come the end of the season?
It is a possibility, but a possibility that would mean a change in mindset by a large number of the current supporters. Could they accept seeing Greg Pearson attacking the Pompey goal instead of Wayne Rooney, or Shane Redmond allowing a simple back pass from his own defender to roll past him for a comical own goal instead of Edwin van der Sar?
For every perceived negative there can be a positive. No huge investment? Nope, but then organic growth would be allowed to happen and there wouldn't be those massive interest payments to be made at regular occasions during the season. No big name players? You mean those dedicated and loyal people who jump ship at the first opportunity and the others who allegedly sue you for loss of image rights? No sky-high ticket prices? Nope and double nope - £15 a ticket maximum, based on a decent turnout, would still give a club like Pompey a fighting chance of playing in the Championship and actually competing there.
But over and above the financial side of things it would mean that Pompey would be given back to their fan base, it would become their baby and something that they could nurture and something that would become a centre point of the city. Think about the possibility of inclusion - boys and girls' junior teams playing in the same shirt as the first team, the local ladies team brought into the fold and how about disabled teams again playing in the same shirt? Can you seriously expect that to ever happen with the current setup? The Premier League does not do supporter inclusion.
Portsmouth Football Club has the opportunity right now to break the Sky mould, destroy the myth that is the Premier League and return a club to those who most deserve it. The question remains though, does the current "owner" and do the supporters have the will to take up the challenge?
Date:Tuesday February 9 2010
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