Football’s reaping success from Pompey pioneers

Fan-funder Steve McLenaghan cuts the ribbon to officially open the Tifosy pitches at Pompeys Copnor Road training base. Also included are, from left, James Pollock, Tifosy, Blues chief executive Mark Catlin, manager Kenny Jackett, academy boss Mark Kelly and Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Ken Ellcome. Fans were also present at the opening ceremony
Fan-funder Steve McLenaghan cuts the ribbon to officially open the Tifosy pitches at Pompeys Copnor Road training base. Also included are, from left, James Pollock, Tifosy, Blues chief executive Mark Catlin, manager Kenny Jackett, academy boss Mark Kelly and Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Ken Ellcome. Fans were also present at the opening ceremony
Mohamed-Labib Maouche in Pompey reserves action against Southend last night Picture: Colin Farmery

Pompey end interest in triallist Maouche

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The vision was pioneering – yet sometimes even bold trailblazers possess doubts.

‘I think it’s fair to say it surpassed our expectations by some considerable distance,’ said Colin Farmery.

‘We set a £250,000 target. I thought we might be able to make £120,000-130,000, while Mark Catlin was looking at the £80,000 mark. Within six weeks we’d exceeded both.

‘What it underlined was the potential for engaging with your supporters. If it’s a project they can see adds value to the club then they will get involved.

‘The whole principle of fan funding is it’s not a donation, you get something for your money. What occurred was an extraordinary effort by all concerned.’

In the summer of 2014, fledgling company Tifosy partnered Pompey in the launch of a groundbreaking scheme to fund stage three of the training ground’s renovation.

The concept of crowdfunding was hardly revolutionary, yet never before had it been trialled in a football environment utilising supporters’ willingness to assist their club.

Subsequently, Pompey fans were challenged to raise £250,000 within 62 days to enable the creation of two Academy pitches at the club’s Copnor Road training venue.

What unfolded was 5,494 fans contributing towards a final tally of £270,000 – surpassing by £20,000 a goal initially regarded as unachievable.

Such was its remarkable success, the Pompey model spawned more than 70 fan-funding campaigns across Europe, so far totalling £1.76m in monies raised.

And on Thursday afternoon, those prized academy facilities generated through supporter backing were officially unveiled.

‘It has been a long time in the making, but there has been a lot of patience with it as well,’ said academy boss Mark Kelly.

‘We have tried to keep off the new surfaces until they were right to use. Now we’re really getting the benefit of high-quality pitches.

‘With grass you can try to rush it, but we made the decision last year to wait until it was ready to enable us to get maximum use out of it. That has paid massive dividends.

‘Whereas many academies and first teams are split, ours now work and train on the same site, which we believe is beneficial.

‘As an academy, we have our own area to work with, housing the under-15s and 16s on day release and, of course, the under-18s.

‘Being based at the training ground rather than travelling over split sites means youngsters can also use the gym. Their weight programme is getting a lot greater and it’s timed for when the first team have gone home.

‘In addition, we would like to build a changing block as we cannot currently play matches at the venue.

‘With the infrastructure at present, we don’t want to keep taking the first-team out of their changing rooms – we need to have our own.

‘There is planning permission for Portakabins to go in and meetings going on looking at how we move forward in the next couple of years.

‘For now, though, we have really, really good, high-quality, high-standard pitches for the academy.

‘And we’d like to thank the supporters for making that happen.’

Although the concept involved two pitches, the outcome has been one-and-a-half, in addition to a goalkeeping area.

The area has been the academy’s residence since the second week of the season, with home matches continuing to be staged at Furze Lane.

With football’s pilot scheme having proven to be a success, other clubs have been persuaded to follow suit.

Subsequently, working with Tifosy, Bradford raised £152,631 to renovate their Valley Parade changing rooms and construct a big screen.

Accrington successfully reached their goal to also introduce a big screen, collecting £22,112, while Oldham generated £22,835 to achieve the same ambition.

In attempts to create a statue to England World Cup-winner George Cohen, Fulham raised £109,676, while Shrewsbury are presently seeking £75,000 to build the first safe-standing area in England and Wales

Most ambitious of all, Stevenage are closing in on £500,000 to assist the first phase development of a new North Stand. The scheme involves investing into a five-year mini-bond – on top of a £450,000 Football Foundation grant already secured.

Farmery, who oversaw the project, added: ‘Tifosy approached us in December 2013 after Darren Simmons, from Executives in Sport, suggested to them that Pompey might be a good fit for this kind of project.

‘It remains professionally one of the most amazing and extraordinary projects I have ever been involved in.

‘Crowdfunding itself wasn’t new, but in football it was a fairly fresh concept and you didn’t know whether this was going to earn £250 or £250,000. But Pompey fans stepped up.

‘Tifosy have now developed their brand and down the line it’s something that, as a football club, we would look at again.

‘When you’re looking at the redevelopment of Fratton Park, there are some quite big-ticket projects – and there may well be a fan-funding element to it.’

In the meantime, a fan-inspired vision from 2014 is reaping benefits to the Pompey of 2017.

Boss Kenny Jackett said: ’We are very, very thankful for everyone who has put so much effort in because it has really helped develop the training ground.

‘What we have done is make the back area the youth area, so schoolboys coming in during afternoons and evenings can use it as well.

‘It suits us to be able to section it and work towards a youth area and a single area, while the pitches are of a good standard,

‘Step-by-step, it is the continuing development of the training facilities and production of young players.’