The Eisners – So Far So Good

Just under a year on from The News breaking the story about the Eisner takeover, here’s my personal and largely irrelevant thoughts on the Eisner’s so far.

As a kid, I was lucky enough to go to Disneyworld in Orlando a number of times. For anyone that’s been, you’ll understand what I mean when I say there’s a kind of “magic” about the place.

As a kid, I attributed this abstract feeling of “magic” to the fact that it was where Mickey Mouse and his pals lived. Which to be fair, is probably part of it.

However, I took my other half to Disneyworld this year as her birthday present, partly because she’s sound and she’d never been before and partly because I fancied a bit of Cinderella.

Anyhow, even at 27, there was something special about the place, and in my opinion the thing that makes the atmosphere so awesome is the absolute attention to every single minute detail in the place.

Everything from the toilets to the ride queues to the hotel pathways are themed, immaculate and, crucially, designed with the consumer experience in mind.

Disneyworld as an entertainment venue and a business was on its knees in the 80’s when Michael Eisner took the reins by all accounts (including, it must be said, Michael’s) and now its a money making monster.

As I wandered around the parks this summer, I couldn’t help but fill a twinge of excitement that the man who was significantly responsible for creating this remarkable place was about to own my football club (and also owed me a grand).

There was also a slight worry, Disneyworld is very corporate, would the Eisner’s be able to deliver the same level of customer/fan experience at Pompey without sterilising the product into a soulless business?

I found myself constantly looking around, rather bizarrely, at what good business practices were transferable from Disneyworld, Orlando to Portsmouth Football Club.

There were many, many things which I spotted, and hope to see implemented at our club over the next few years, too numerous to list here but which I believe would enhance the matchday experience whilst retaining the working class roots of Pompey and English Football.

One thing I would hasten to add is that the Disneyworld thing was very much Michael driven, whereas it seems Pompey are being left mostly in the hands of Eric and Andy Redman.

I guess that brings us onto the Eisner’s themselves, and what we’ve seen so far.

Starting at the beginning, the pitch which Michael Eisner made at the Guildhall was incredibly slick and sharp, as you’d expect. If you didn’t get goosebumps in that video at the end then you’re not human.

Whilst the takeover took a frustratingly long, but understandable, amount of time I’ve been relatively impressed so far with the new owners.

They made it clear from the start that outrageous money would not be splashed, and didn’t make any outrageous claims, which as far as Americans go, must have been quite a challenge to hold back on!

What we’ve seen so far, is sensible spending, some good coups (Jackett, Pitman), sound business decisions (retaining Mark Catlin) and decent commitment to the cause (match attendance, tweets etc).

Beginning with Michael, we’ve seen him at Fratton a couple of times and he tweets regularly about the club. Definitely has more of a back seat role but is an impressive presence to have behind the club as the figurehead.

Next up is Andy Redman, director, who seems to be taking the role of “the suit”. Very much involved in the larger scale projects (stadium) but has come across well in his various media appearances.

Finally we arrive at Eric Eisner, very much “the face” of the takeover, who as far as football club owners go, hasn’t put a foot wrong for me so far.

Eric has done his homework, interacts constantly with fans and appears to be a very likeable and down to earth guy. However, it’s very easy to be a popular football owner when things are going well.

It remains to be seen how Eric will deal with any major setbacks and how his now considerable online fanbase will deal with him.

I’m interested to see how Eric and the Eisner’s as a whole deal with any online criticism/abuse which unfortunately will inevitably occur during any difficult patches for the club.

To date though, Eric has impressed me the most, particularly with his willingness to engage with fans and to involve himself in general everyday Pompey discussions.

On the cynical side, it makes business sense to be involved in the social media scene, he gets a daily gauge on the atmosphere of the fanbase/customers and over time will notice consumer trends which can be implemented into the business.

That being said, his interest and enthusiasm appears to be completely genuine and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m really taken with the guy.

It’s completely understandable to be cynical with what has happened to us in the past and I still have a part of me which says this all too good to be true.

That being said, the Eisner’s and Eric in particular seem to have a keen awareness of that cynicism and why we feel it. Eric had mentioned before about earning trust, and so far we’re well on our way to that.

The real litmus test will be when the club starts losing, needs serious investment, or when tough decisions need to be made.

My final thought on this bunch, and one I return to when I’m feeling cynical, is that they’re completely traceable, transparent and up front.

We might have stumbled onto a winner here, or then again, we might be the first failure of the Eisner’s business career which knowing Pompey’s luck would kind of make sense.

On that note, Merry Christmas to all, I wish you all the very best. Here’s to another year of success. PUP

Pompey Pedro

Photo: Habibur Rahman

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