The football fans creating Pompey stars for tomorrow

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The Fratton end rose to acknowledge the contribution of the substitute who had entered the pitch in the 71st minute.

‘He’s one of our own,’ they chimed during a rendition which is increasing in its airing this season.

Conor Chaplin, the lad from Worthing but attached to the Blues’ youth set-up since the age of six, had given Paul Cook’s side the lead.

Then arrived a stoppage-time equaliser from Stevenage to deprive him of the match-winning mantle on that Tuesday night.

Nonetheless, the 18-year-old had registered his fifth goal of the campaign – all at Fratton Park.

Last term Chaplin netted 32 times at all levels during a campaign which saw him earn a first professional contract and named LFE League Two Apprentice of the Year.

Thanks to Pompey fans, the pathway has been kept unobstructed for other promising Academy players to follow his route into the first team.

Supporters have contributed £75,000 towards the running costs of the Blues’ youth set-up this season, enabling it to continue flourishing.

It represents a hefty chunk of the £200,000-£250,000 annually required to fund the Academy in its current highly-successful format.

And all achieved through the Pompey Lottery.

Launched in July 2014, the scheme pledged to devote all its profits to Mark Kelly’s youth set-up.

By July 2015 that had reached £75,000, thanks to 2,915 registered members of which 2,168 are classed as currently paying.

Pompey’s Academy presently fields nine age groups and totals more than 120 promising footballers.

And for Academy boss Mark Kelly, the arrival of this new fan-driven funding stream has been crucial.

He said: ‘In the first team you have Conor and Adam Webster, while Brandon Haunstrup is around it and big Jack (Whatmough) and Ben Close are coming back from injuries.

‘There are a few more kids in the background and a lot more to come behind them.

‘We are working extremely hard to keep pushing that proper pathway into the first team.

‘Our Academy is a big operation with sides from under-nines going up to under-18s which involves a lot of travel and expenditure, so any financial assistance is fantastic.

‘This is a seven-day-a-week programme, a lot of my staff are out every night taking events, in addition to games across the south west and south east.

‘Our expenses include transportation, fuel, equipment such as balls and kit, and hiring facilities including the University of Portsmouth, Priory School and Bay House School, it all adds up.

‘You receive various grants to bring down costs but we still have to find our own funding to enable us to fulfil the criteria set in front of us. What’s more, we are audited every six weeks.

‘There’s a lot more to our Academy programme than people probably realise and you can see the results across the board. We are in a really healthy place.

‘And the supporters deserve a lot of credit for playing their part in that.’

Classed as a Category 3 Academy, Kelly and Mikey Harris have taken on the fine work instigated by Andy Awford and Paul Hardyman.

The club are also on the verge of commencing work on additional training ground facilities funded by 5,494 people who raised £270,000 during last year’s Tifosy campaign.

And financially, the lottery’s ongoing input has been priceless.

Pompey’s chief executive, Mark Catlin, added: ‘The lottery has been a remarkable success and all the profit we receive goes directly towards the running costs of the Academy.

‘We are in the region of a net investment in our Academy of £200,000-250,000 annually.

‘Obviously if the £75,000 wasn’t there there would have to be decisions made over how much would be going through the club’s overall working budget into the Academy. The money has to be found somewhere but presently doesn’t have to be diverted from elsewhere in the business to support the Academy.

‘An important part of being a community club is running an Academy.

‘It is vital the kids coming through see that pathway and it’s something the current board are keen to support.

‘As with all the initiatives we’ve had since the club was taken over by the fans, it is successful through the supporters.

‘The Academy now, to a large extent, is part-funded by the generosity of our fans taking part in the lottery.’

Since its July 2014 formation, a total of £53,300 has been paid out to winners.

That includes £12,000 to Alan Brent, who scooped the annual jackpot draw at a Victory Lounge event attended by 180 members earlier this month.

Some instances have seen members donate their prizes back to the Pompey Lottery.

Dave Sargent, a Merseyside-based Blues supporter, last season won £10 and doubled it to enable a pair of young supporters to be able to attend a Fratton Park match free of charge.

For Bridget Barnes, the Pompey Lottery administrator, it is a gesture with typifies the supporters’ approach to the lottery.

She said: ‘A lot of our members are not in it for what they can win and that is genuinely lovely.

‘I don’t think outsiders can really appreciate how passionate Pompey fans are and the importance to them of having a club in the city to follow.

‘Their backing towards the lottery from day one has been absolutely amazing. The initial target was 1,500 members and as you can see it has comprehensively beaten that.

‘To go from a zero start to almost 3,000 registered members is very, very good for any lottery, particularly sports ones when many make a loss in the opening year.

‘It all comes down to the fans, their pride in the club and their desire to support the Academy.

‘And we want to keep on growing and providing the Academy with the funds to continue pumping out good players that can benefit the club.’

To sign up for the Pompey Lottery visit pompeylottery.co.uk or call Bridget on (023) 9277 8532.

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