Michael Eisner’s patience and pragmatism will make Portsmouth FC succeed

Pompey fans are fully aware that Michael Eisner goes against the grain of modern football ownership.

In his annual interview with the club, the former Walt-Disney chairman and CEO reiterated his methods of ownership and how to secure success for Portsmouth FC.

Details were given over the future of Fratton Park and the process to which the club make decisions regarding transfers and management.

The Stadium

The uncertain future of Fratton Park remains a concern for many Pompey fans. Back in January, long-term details over the stadium remained unclear.

Asked on whether the future of the stadium was a conundrum, Eisner stated the contrary. The aim for the development of Fratton Park is to “enhance the presentation of the stadium.”

Due to the neglection of the stadium from previous owners, the initial focus was on renovating the stadium for safety reasons.

This renovation extended to the new floodlights and the jumbotron being installed.

Overall, Eisner considers Fratton Park an asset to Portsmouth and not a hindrance.

“With the fans being right on the pitch, it was one of the big assets of this football club. It is (the stadium) brought up to speed, now we have to think through what were going to do to enhance presentation and comfort of the stadium.”

The “presentation and comfort” aims to keep the charm of Fratton Park but adding all the best and convenient parts of modern stadiums. Convenience also goes beyond the stadium.

The Portsmouth chairman opens up on discussions with the city to improve the logistics around the stadium; if the club are 100% committed to Fratton Park. These logistical improvements involve making transport links to the stadium easier and the walk to the stadium more pleasant.

Eisner: “I want the whole experience (of travelling to the stadium and being a fan) to be perfect.”

Pragmatism on transfers and management

During the ownership of the Eisner’s and the Tornante Group, they have often been criticised over a lack of ambition.

With Pompey watching division rivals Peterborough and Sunderland spend big in recent seasons, some fans are clamouring for a more aggressive transfer policy to secure promotion.

The underwhelming January transfer window and playoff collapse only solidified that opinion. Michael Eisner agrees to an extent, where he agrees that money obviously helps but a “consistency of purpose” is more important.

Essentially, Eisner is continuing to support a pragmatic and long-term approach towards the transfer market. Spending too much on the wrong player can lead to short term regrets.

“I would love to be a little crazy in that area but it’s like having a few too many drinks. You wake up the next morning and think, what have I done? It’s a false image that money solves everything.”

This quote has proven to be true for certain transfers in League 1. Will Grigg’s £3-4m move to Sunderland last season has only yielded 4 goals and 2 assists. All of Peterborough’s spending over the years has not lead to promotion either.

The transfer policy at Portsmouth is focused around acquiring and nurturing talent. Talent refers to players which can be useful for multiple seasons.

This policy is why Kenny Jackett generally prefers to invest in players just before their prime years (ages in their early-mid 20s), but the policy isn’t rigid. Marcus Harness and Ronan Curtis fit the mold of entering their prime years but players such as Lee Brown and John Marquis are closer to their ability ceiling.

Acquiring and nurturing talent also refers to managers. Kenny Jackett was even offered an extension by Michael Eisner after a losing streak.

“My thesis is if you know someone who’s qualified, stick with them.”

“If you make changes, the new person – whether it’s the CEO, scouts or the manager – the new person changes everything and you have to start from scratch.”

“I believe in loyalty to people who are performing.”

From Eisner’s method of acquiring and nurturing talent, Pompey have an owner who will no resort to knee jerk decisions, favouring a more long-term approach to success.

Defining long term success and the future of Portsmouth FC

Michael Eisner describes the aim for Portsmouth FC is steady, long term improvement. Similar to his previous tenures as the CEO of the LA Angels and Anaheim Ducks, Eisner wants Portsmouth to be an appreciated “global brand”.

Although this aim sounds like a commercialism drive, the plan is to impress global audiences with the talents and personalities on and off the pitch: keeping the charm of the football club whilst growing the brand globally.

“I don’t think we’re going to be selling Pompey hats all over the world, but I think we will be appreciated.”

“We want to be known as the hardest working teams, a consistent team and a consistent management.”

The hope for many fans is that Portsmouth can finally reach the Premier League under this sustainable model. No restrictive time-frame has been given but Michael Eisner cannot imagine Portsmouth FC not being a Premier League team in the future.

“The aspiration is always to be number one, when that is going to happen, I can’t tell you.”

A lack of time frame for this lofty goal is refreshing. All too often, clubs take too many risks to reach the Premier League sooner.

Football clubs have even gone as far as selling their own stadiums to allow them to spend more on players wages.

Ambition is intertwined with Pompey will not be jumping on that trend any time soon and it is encouraging that sensible investment with long term planning will be key to Portsmouth’s success moving forward.

By buying your way into it, your buying your destruction.”


Freddie Webb