Pompey vision needed to set direction under Eisners ownership

By Matt Partridge

I voted no on the deal for the Eisners to buy the club. I understand no one really invested in the fan ownership model to make money but at £5.7 million, they were getting a bargain.

In exchange for that bargain I felt we had a strong negotiating hand for other guarantees. It sounds like a board seat was a hard no for them. But all the deal gave us was a guarantee that they would invest a further £10 million.

At that £5.7m price I’d personally have wanted Tornante to have had to come back to the PST for a vote in the event they sold the club on to a new owner.

And I’d have probably wanted – for me to vote yes – contractual guarantees over their promises, ie investing X in the academy & stadium capacity to X.

To put it in perspective AFC Wimbledon last raised £4 million at a £26.7 million valuation. The Eisners were getting us on the cheap and ran an incredibly good PR campaign to get all of the key people on board and the fan base excited enough, without promising too much.

Once they achieved that it was very hard for anyone against the deal to speak out, especially the presidents – although I think the final vote from them was close.

Whilst I do understand the reasons why it didn’t happen, it was disappointing that there was no alternative pitch at or after the Guildhall. You can vote for the Eisners or here’s the PST/President’s plan on how we’ll raise further investment while remaining in control.

As I say it’s not a deal that I would have voted yes on, but there were a lot worse people/groups that the club could have been sold to. I was still excited by this further investment and the hope of finally getting back to the Championship and improvements to our stadium, academy and facilities.

Nearly six years on and some fans are starting to turn, but there have been some positives. The stadium improvements – although not mind blowing – are certainly welcome, our neglected stadium was in desperate need of some TLC.

I do believe their vision is to eventually build a new North Stand and fill in the corners to increase capacity and revenue. It was great to see that Covid didn’t delay those plans and they continued to invest in the stadium.

As much as I applaud the investment, what we have seen so far in ambition is arguably limited. There was a huge opportunity to buy the Pompey Centre last year.

An owner with big visions would have bought that land – I think it went for roughly £50 million to M7 Real Estate.

You could have moved B&Q and other tenants to the existing Fratton Park site and you could have built “Pompey Village” with a new stadium, hotel, retail and hospitality. No need for a footbridge either! Would have almost felt like Disney…

So while I applaud the stadium works that have happened, I think that there was an opportunity missed by owners that could have afforded to invest and got others involved.

I get people want to stay at the existing Fratton Park (so do I) but what we can do there is very limited.

The promised academy investment seems to have been small and we’ve definitely gone backwards over the last six years on the pitch. The Eisners have spent a lot of money, but most of that has been on safe purchases like assets or forced spending like Covid losses or stadium health and safety.

But we are debt free, we are spending on infrastructure and we are hiring talented people across the football club on the business side. You can question the Eisners ambition (or reasons for buying us) but you can’t say we are not a well run football club.

So why the split fan base? I can only speak for myself, but I feel conflicted in my views on the success of their ownership for a few reasons.

1. Naturally you get excited by a billionaire owner, even if they say it will be sustainable growth the investment to get us there is currently very cautious.

2. At the end of the day we are a football club and we pay to be entertained, that hasn’t happened enough under their ownership – not entirely their fault.

3. This is a well run business financially and we should be very careful what we wish for. We have an astute businessman as Chair, we are debt free and have built some foundations for future revenue growth.

So I have a number of conflicting opinions and views on their ownership so far. But I think the thing they are getting so wrong is their communication.

I get that they want the CEO to be the one that talks on their behalf and owners remain in the background – something that happens at US sports teams.

But after six years of only minor progress in some areas, it’s time for another Guildhall moment. Not why you should sell to us, but here is our 10 year vision for Portsmouth Football Club. Something the fans can all get behind.

There must be one internally and I get they probably don’t want to be held accountable to a plan they are investing their own money in but the fans need uniting.

A clear vision on how we make this club great again and fans will get behind it. Right now I feel too many of us are confused as to what the owners want from this.

We’ve got a new manager coming in who we’ll get behind, now give us a public 5/10 year business vision for what we want to achieve and how we get back to where this football club belongs.

Get us excited for the future and all united behind a vision and story. If anyone can do that it should be the former CEO of Disney!

2 thoughts on “Pompey vision needed to set direction under Eisners ownership

  1. A lot of YOUR thoughts that make financial sense. Personally l feel that in the fans eyes we now have a business with ‘nice’ people running it. I do not see or hear a dynamic, positive voice amongst them. This is a football club, the fans want to see staff, managers and more importantly the squad of players who are enthused to play for Pompey, a team that will scrap and play hard to entertain and play to win for their formidable fans and at the moment the whole lot look and sound like damp squibs.
    I pay to watch Pompey and have done for over 50 years l want to see some strength, visually verbally from owners and managers, physically and skillfully from the players.

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  2. Whilst I nearly stopped reading after the first couple of chapters. I note we now have almost as many fans saying they did not vote for Eisners as we had shareholders- or at the Stockport game! I think the yes vote was 85%! I am pleased to have continued. This, like Neil Allen’s recent report begins to summarise nicely the issues OUR club faces. Both articles are neatly and highly relevant and I would hope senior management are taking note.

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