Pompey’s Roko link-up is worst-kept secret

Sport & Leisure Group chief executive Barry Hunter, left, with Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin and Blues boss Andy Awford
Sport & Leisure Group chief executive Barry Hunter, left, with Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin and Blues boss Andy Awford
Pompey manager Kenny Jackett

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BARRY HUNTER admitted Pompey’s desire to open their own training ground at Roko was the ‘worst-kept secret’.

The chief executive at Sport & Leisure Group, which runs the Hilsea health club, has been involved in discussions with the Blues hierarchy for a number of years about a proposed move to the Copnor Road site.

And now the ink has dried on a 30-year-lease, Hunter has spoken of his pride at finally teaming up with Pompey.

Hunter said: ‘I started talking with Andy Awford a few years ago, with the then-owners and management of the club.

‘There has always been an ambition for Pompey to come here.

‘I think that has been the worst-kept secret.

‘But it’s been in the last 12 months where the momentum has gathered, with the club coming out of administration.

‘There is a very clear ambition for the club to have a training ground within the city.

‘We have really worked hard to make that happen.

‘And now we are seeing the fruition of that.’

Hunter also spoke of his excitement at the prospect of welcoming the Blues to Roko and revealed that the community club were an ideal fit for the venue.

‘We are very excited by the prospect of Pompey basing their training ground at our Copnor Road site,’ said Hunter.

‘Roko health club and our five-a-side centre, PlayFootball, are well entrenched sports and fitness venues in the Portsmouth community.

‘We believe this opportunity fits very well with our local strategy.’

Hunter was also quick to reassure existing Roko members that their own experiences would not be compromised in any way.

He said: ‘We have been able to negotiate things within the existing health club for Pompey players to use, such as our swimming pool, sprung-floor studios and the players’ lounge – including a kitchen area where the chefs will come in and see to the various dietary needs.

‘There are a lot of things here that are up there with the best of the training facilities around the country – probably including some of the Premier League clubs.

‘But what has been very important is that we have ensured that Pompey’s usage will not affect Roko members in any way.’