The Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference has now been in place for over 10 years providing regular dialogue between Pompey fans and the club.
Here are the minutes from the recent meeting.
If you have a question you’d like to submit for the next TGFC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ensure it’s passed onto Mike Fulcher who represents PompeyNewsNow and other social media groups at the meetings.
Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference
Wednesday 14th April – 6:30pm
Eric Eisner, Danny Cowley, Nicky Cowley, Mark Catlin, Tony Brown, Anna Mitchell, Johnny Moore (PFC).
Barry Dewing (Pompey Independent Supporters’ Association), Colin Farmery (Pompey History Society), Donald Vass (TGFC Secretary & Chichester Portsmouth Supporters’ Club), Gemma Raggett (London Supporters’ Club), Graham Price (Pompey 808), Ian Marshall (Chimes Lounge), James Attwood (Pompey Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club), John Brindley (North Stand), John Cannings (Northern Blues), Mike Fulcher (TGFC Chair & Social Media Groups), Pam Wilkins (Pompey Disabled Supporters’ Association), Roy Gregory (Central Branch Supporters’ Club), Simon Colebrook (Pompey Supporters’ Trust), Spencer Green (Armed Forces & Services Club), Steve Cornell-Davis (South West Supporters’ Club) & Steve Tovey (Legends Lounge).
MF opened the meeting and thanked the club representatives for joining us.
NC explained that he wanted to say hello but was still reviewing last night’s game and is preparing for Saturday’s match.
DC: Thanks for inviting us. It’s a big privilege to be at this football club. Nicky and I have been overwhelmed by the response and feel very settled.
1. Danny Cowley Q&A
Q: You took the job on an initial 12 game contract – why, and have talks begun about extending your stay? Are there any automatic extension clauses if particular targets are met?
DC: For Nicky and myself, when the opportunity came to manage here we’d have done it for 1 game, let alone 12. We’d love the opportunity to be here longer and to experience a full house with the Fratton End sucking the ball into the goal. Right now, we have to wake up each day and prove ourselves to all the key people at the club.
We certainly see the potential here. We feel that we can add value. We believe in our work ethic and skill set. We know for these 12 games we need to win some football matches, show the club our processes and see if we’re compatible for each other.
Our ambition is to stay for longer but we need to show that. It’s the same position for many of the players [who are also out of contract soon]. That in itself can be quite powerful. We’re enjoying the opportunity to prove ourselves, we’re working hard every day, we’re very focused on the here and now. That’s important for the football club as we’re at the business end of the season. We’re hoping to get into the play-offs and then win a play-off game.
Q: Your official titles are ‘Head Coach’ & ‘Assistant Head Coach’ where this has previously been ‘Manager’. Does this represent a restructuring of the football side of the club, and how does this affect your role? Are there any plans to appoint a Director Of Football/Technical Director?
DC: Whenever there’s a change in the managerial role at a football club there’s always an opportunity at that point to look at the structure of the organisation. That’s what the club are doing. Modern football clubs are huge organisations.
Many clubs now have [a sporting/technical director]. Their role is to devise and drive the strategy of the football club. We understand that and think it’s a really good model going forward. Data Analysis, recruitment, sports science – these are all big departments within a football club. Games can come thick and fast –it can be hard for the coaches to find the time to build the strategy of the club.
It’s useful to have someone in to support the head coach in driving strategy – I think that’s a good model. Nicky and I want to be involved in building that. From initial conversations, if our contracts are extended, we’ll be part of that discussion.
Q: Did you suggest this restructuring to the club, or did they discuss it with you during the recruitment process?
DC: The club had a clear idea of structure going forward. This period gives them a really good chance to see if we’re a good fit for that. I do believe in the club’s plan here, that we need a director in place to develop staff, to create continuity and so on.
If we can, as a football club, create a DNA – these are our values, this is what supporters want to see – then once these things are in place you have a sporting director who can drive that direction throughout the club.
Q: Would you like to see a development squad at Portsmouth to help bridge the gap from academy to first team?
DC: We wholeheartedly believe in young people. If we want to be a sustainable club over a long period of time then we must develop our own players.
First and foremost, we must have an outstanding academy provision. What does success look like for the PFC academy? We currently have a category 3 academy and we want to be the best category 3 in the country. It’s really tough – we all know category 1s and big clubs stockpile young players. They have huge financial resources and facilities. Our big challenge is to compete.
We have to find a different way and a different model. We have to find our own way – we need an outstanding provision for young players to help improve them as footballers but also as human beings.
When we get to that level, then we’ll be ready to create an U23 or B team. But until we have an outstanding provision between the age of 8 and 18, we’re not ready to add to the provision. We prefer to focus on what we’re currently doing and do that better.
When we’re producing players at the quantity we’d like, then it will be time to look at an U23 or B team. Until then, we have to create a pathway. Whether they’re 16 or Charlie Daniels at 34, we want to improve our players. We like to have a couple of ‘bounce’ games a month for players out of the side to keep them match fit.
I wholeheartedly believe in non-league and know what a good grounding it can be. I’ve managed in 8 of the top 9 divisions in this country so far and know how good the level can be. Sometimes, I think the U23s would be better being involved in first team football at a lower level.
Q: You mentioned needing a different approach to youth recruitment to get ahead of other clubs – what would this look like? Would you recommend a Brentford-style model and look at 18-21 year olds who leave Premier League academies?
DC: I genuinely believe we have to look outside the box and do things differently. I believe I have some good ideas, the club has some good ideas, and we’re in the process of appointing an academy manager who will have ideas of their own.
We’ll then pool those idea together and decide the direction of the academy. We want players with physical attributes but also those with learning capacity to develop and improve. We could look at extending our scholarship offer to recruit youngsters from around the country.
Q: We recently advertised for a new academy manager. Are we close to making an appointment? Have you had any input into the process, and the remit of the role?
DC: We have been in the process of recruiting an academy manager and are very close to making an appointment. We’ve been involved in the interview process. We had some outstanding candidates – that excites me.
Some recent years have been arduous for the football club. I want to look forward and be positive. I really see this as new beginnings. We’re looking to make really good appointments in really important positions.
Every football club is only as good as its people. When we all align ourselves and get joined-up thinking, it’s amazing what you can achieve.
Q: Andy Cannon said in The News last week that he feels the club needs to begin discussions with the out of contract players about extending their deals into next year. Do you agree, and have the contract issues affected player performance, motivation and attitude?
DC: The players have been outstanding since Nicky and I arrived. They’re very coachable, hardworking and honest. We do have out of contract players – that’s happening at every club in the league. Some, we’d love dearly to keep at the club.
We’re in the same position as the players. That’s worked in the club’s favour – we’re all motivated to be successful! We’ve had low-level, early conversation with the playing squad about next year and what that would look like in both the Championship and League One.
[On Andy Cannon,] players sometimes don’t articulate themselves as well as they could or should do after games! I spoke with Andy – perhaps if he could have his time again he’d speak in a different way. We think a lot of Andy and really like him. There’s no problem.
Q: You and Nicky are both on social media. Previous managers have banned players from using it – what impact do you think it has on players?
DC: I only go on when we win – if we draw or lose I go nowhere near it, so I think people on there always like me! I am in the process of following lots of Pompey fans on Twitter. You can’t ban players from using it – for young people, it’s such a big part of their lives. We just have to manage it.
Some users can be harsh and unkind or say things which hurt your feelings. I encourage the players not to accept criticism from anyone whose advice they wouldn’t take. Sometimes that can be helpful. It does affect players – no doubt – but pressure is a privilege. We work to play at the highest level we can. The higher a level we work at, the more pressure there is to be successful.
Q: When Portsmouth Football Club was in the Premier League the opportunity to invest in infrastructure was largely wasted by the various regimes. If Pompey were to be promoted this season, how do you view Pompey’s infrastructure compared to what you found at Huddersfield Town in the Championship?
DC: I love old stadiums – I’m a football romantic. In terms of facilities, there are definitely some improvements to be made. The bricks and mortar are important and can help, but it’s all about the people – that’s what defines the football club. I think this football club has great people – that’s what attracted me to it.
As soon as we met Mark, Anna, Tony, Michael, Eric, Andy, that’s what attracted us. In terms of the jump to the Championship – I’ve lived it. It’s huge. It’s the biggest jump, in my experience. There’s a huge leap in spending power and infrastructure. We want to make that leap, and accelerate that process.
At Concord Rangers, we were never ‘ready’ for the jumps up, but you do it – you find a way. And we did. You make the jump up to compete and establish yourself. I hate the word consolidate – that makes it sound like you’re just treading water and we don’t want to do that.
This club can be whatever it wants to be. We want to get to the next level, as quickly as we can.
Q: It sounds like you’re hoping for a longer deal here. Have you begun identifying any transfer targets for next season?
DC: We’ve had good early conversations in regards to recruitment. We’re meeting every week to discuss potential targets. We have ideas for what we’d need in League One and what we’d need in the Championship.
We have a clear game plan and game model, and so have a clear idea of what attributes are needed in each position. That gives the recruitment side much more clarity about what is needed.
We have good contacts and knowledge at Championship level but also in non-league from our time there. We will get the very best players available to us.
DC: And here’s a question from me to you! What do you want from your club?
MF: Effort. Players to put 100% in. We don’t expect to win every week but we do expect to see that players give 100% each week.
BD: Infrastructure. We’ve had good and bad players, good and bad managers – eventually they all leave. We fill the ground up whether we play Rochdale or AC Milan – that’s what we should be investing in and improving.
SC: Pride. The club has been successful in the past but became completely detached from the community. Everyone at the club has worked so hard to re-establish that link. When you aren’t winning, it’s important to still have that link to the fans and the community.
DC and NC thanked everyone for their views and time and logged off from the meeting.
2. Stadium / Infrastructure
Q: What’s the current status of the Milton End & wider Fratton Park development?
[MC gave an update on the current status of infrastructure developments].
Q: If there are further delays to the Milton End, what will be done for disabled fans in the meantime?
MC: If the Milton End continues to be delayed through issues outside of our control, and goes beyond say the next 2-4 years, we’re working on a provision to accommodate disabled fans in the interim. This will be presented to the PFC board at the next meeting in the coming weeks.
Q: You’ve mentioned looking at interim solutions if we can’t start Milton End work within the next 2-4 years. Is there a similar timeline to cutting our losses on Fratton Park and trying another site altogether?
MC: Our owners are aligned with the fans and want to stay at Fratton Park. But it’s a tired old stadium which requires significantly upwards of £1m a year just to remain open.
So many aspects are out of our hands. We can’t go ahead with our plans without the council coming on board. We have no desire to start sorting out and paying for infrastructure which isn’t even ours.
The disabled facilities are a priority however, and we can’t let that go on. We are working towards the permanent solution we all crave.
Q: How much of a hindrance is the substation behind the North Stand to any future development?
MC: It would be a very expensive piece of work – we’re talking millions. The onus would be on us to fund that.
Q: Have the plans for a wider redevelopment of Fratton Park changed post-Covid, due to the differing landscape?
MC: No. We are building for the long term – Covid won’t blow us off course. We are planning for a similar world to the one before Covid.
EE: We understand Portsmouth and Pompey. Danny sees the work behind the scenes that the fans don’t see. The stadium is the most thought inspiring and most difficult decisions we have in front of us. It’s complicated but nothing we didn’t anticipate.
3. Club finances
Q: What’s the financial outlook at the club currently?
TB: It’s a ‘wait and see’ situation for next season. We’ve published our accounts for the year ended 2020, but breaking even was really down to the Jamal Lowe sale, otherwise there would have been a loss. The year ended 2021 was obviously a very difficult year due to lack of fan income.
We’re very grateful for the Premier League bailout but will nonetheless have a significant financial loss for this season. We’re still hoping that there may be a government bailout, and the EFL are working on behalf of all the clubs.
Q: Is there any further news regarding the EFL’s squad limit, the salary cap, and how these things will impact on Pompey’s spending power for next season?
TB: At the last EFL meeting there was a long debate about changing the numbers. The squad limit would have a big impact on us, only allowing for 20 players. We’ve been really hit by losing 3 of our strikers to injury from a 22 man squad this current season – so that would’ve been even worse in a squad of 20 and we await any updates.
Q: The Championship has long been a financial basket case. Do you see that continuing post-Covid?
MC: I understand that some Championship clubs are taking loans at the moment just to get through. We may see a slight reduction in craziness post-Covid. Offers being made to players at the moment are reportedly much lower than before. Some clubs may see this as an opportunity to go crazy and spend their way to promotion, but most should settle into a new post-Covid economy. Players are still getting used to the new financial landscape though!
Q: £10m was put into the club as equity during the takeover, but after the pandemic most if not all of this will already have been used. What form will new investment take?
EE: We won’t be taking on any debt. Equity will be put into the club when the time is right. We agreed upon taking the club forward. We want to improve the infrastructure. We have plans to build this club for the long term.
Q: Have any decisions been made on the availability, format, and pricing of 21/22 season tickets as yet?
Q: When fans return to the ground, will fans who still prefer to shield, or don’t feel safe returning to the ground, be able to retain their seat until later in the 21/22 season or for the 22/23 season?
AM: We’ve started discussions on this. We’re leaning towards flexi-season tickets again. Even the European Championships, which are in late July, appear to be looking at 50% capacity.
Flexi-season tickets would help us ensure fans not yet comfortable coming back could still retain their season ticket seat for future use as well.
Q: If Pompey were to reach them, how would you look to allocate play-off tickets?
AM: We’re looking at around 2,000 – 4,000 capacity depending on the government guidelines at the time. When we used flexi-season ticket groups, we saw only around 65% take-up from each allocated group.
That led to a ‘fastest finger first’ situation when the leftover tickets went on sale. We’re looking at potentially using a ballot system, open only to flexi-season ticket holders, which could be more fair.
Q: Tickets for the Carabao Cup final pilot event are restricted for those not under 18, over 70, or clinically vulnerable. Would Portsmouth look to impose similar restrictions on tickets?
AM: As a club, we don’t have any plans to exclude anyone.
Q: Will travelling fans be allowed back at games next season if reduced attendances continue?
AM: Most clubs were aligned this year against having away fans and prioritising home supporters while clubs operated with reduced capacities.
There are discussions about extending the suspension of the Saturday 3pm ‘blackout’, which would allow us to continue broadcasting every game via iFollow while capacity is reduced.
We are getting around 4,000 iFollow viewers per match at the moment which is a fantastic number and one of the highest in the league.
5. Fan loyalty/reward cards
Q: Will the new payment card be the only way to pay in the stadium, or will people still be able to use cash to buy food and drink? Will this apply to junior tickets as well?
AM: Fans will still be able to use normal debit and credit cards in a push to move towards a ‘cashless stadium’. As the cards are classed as VISA it means that U16s won’t have access to these cards and will instead get a season ticket card as normal. We will send ST holders the full details and information nearer the time.
Q: How and where can these pre-paid cards be topped up?
AM: Fans will be able to top up their card via an app. There’s also going to be a web platform for those without smartphones.
Q: Will this be tied to the current ‘loyalty points’ system which is used to prioritise ticket access?
AM: The loyalty point system will be kept separate.
Q: Is the club up for sale?
EE: Of all the things I’ve seen on Twitter, that’s the most made up of all! Zero plans, never been talked about.
Q: Will representatives from Tornante be able to attend future TGFC meetings as well?
EE: 100%, we’ll be back to more.
MC: Michael is pencilled in to attend the next meeting.
Steve Cornell-Davis is stepping down as chair of the South West Supporters’ Club and so from the TGFC. MF thanked him for his service.DV thanked everyone for their attendance and closed the meeting at 20:05.
Minutes: Donald Vass
Photo: Portsmouth FC