The Pompey Supporters’ Trust notes the protest and accompanying statement released by the PFC Coalition this week.
There is a rich history of protest by supporter groups of Portsmouth Football Club and we respect the right of any football supporter to engage in peaceful protest where they believe it is necessary. We also recognise that we share the same common goal and aspiration for Portsmouth Football Club as those outlined in the statement. Our preference, wherever it can achieve tangible progress, is to work constructively with owners and directors of the club to achieve these outcomes, and there are currently several open avenues through which supporters can have their say and hold the club’s ambitions and plans to account.
Firstly, Tornante are bound under the terms of sale of the club to meet with the Heritage and Advisory Board four times a year to discuss the overall strategic vision for the football club. On this Board Ashley Brown, Phil Sandys and Donald Vass represent the PST, and Mike Hall, Virginia Silvester and Ian Silvester represent the former Presidents.
We recognise that because the discussions are confidential, this can lead to some fans believing that important topics aren’t being addressed. The questions raised in the PFC Coalition statement are central to our discussions in these meetings – the challenge of maintaining competitiveness against clubs whose owners fund unsustainable wages both in the Championship and increasingly in League One is core to the strategic future of the club. These meetings involve robust debate, firm challenge and healthy disagreement. We also regularly encourage the owners to speak directly to fans more often. The flipside to the private nature of these meetings is that the owners can discuss plans which are not yet public, and supporter representatives get an input into these things at an early stage of planning. We would encourage any fan who wishes to participate in this forum to join the Trust and stand for election to our Board, at which point they can put themselves forward to represent the PST with the owners.
The second area of engagement is the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference where representatives from established supporter groups can meet with the CEO and other key staff from the club on behalf of the wider fanbase. Again, the big issues facing the club have been regularly debated here going back to the fan ownership era and this forum has seen robust discussion about communicating the vision and strategy for the future of the club. The minutes from these meetings are routinely published online and circulated widely for every Pompey supporter to see.
We have seen some criticism of supporter groups, including the PST, from PFC Coalition suggesting that we are not prepared to be critical of the club for fear of losing access to the owners or club staff. We would like to reassure our members and Pompey fans in general that the PST engages with the club and ownership without fear or favour. Asking difficult questions and challenging progress and performance has been part of our discussions both during the period where we were co-owners of the club and now since the sale to Tornante. At the present time, however, we feel that more is achieved by doing this constructively in face-to-face meetings rather than by making public demands for action. We are, however, a democratic society led by its members and welcome feedback from our members on the direction and strategy of the PST in its engagement with the club.
We have seen over recent months a growing level of discord within our fanbase regarding the progress of the club, and a tendency for fans to be portrayed as “Pro-Eisner” or “Anti-Eisner” and for personal attacks and, in some cases, threats to be made. We would urge everyone to recognise that we are all motivated by a shared desire to see Pompey compete at the highest level it can, and that there is no room for attacks of any sort on other fans.
Everyone shares the frustration about our continued presence in League One, and it is human nature that when progress is slow more detail is asked for on the plans that will improve the future. We will continue to ask the necessary questions, challenge for faster progress, and encourage more regular communication of the strategy to restore PFC to its rightful place in the football pyramid.