Work has started on Pompey’s Fratton future

Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Paul Cook is plotting the escape route out of the Football League’s bottom division.

Yet in the background, three Pompey supporters are also developing a blueprint to lead the club into a bright new future.

Generations of the Fratton faithful have been frustrated by the issue of Pompey’s stadium and clouded visions.

However, the spadework has begun on a resolution, involving chairman Iain McInnes, Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust board member Mike Saunders and one of the club’s 16 presidents, Peter Lee.

Since the season’s start, the trio have been conducting a feasibility study into the potential for Fratton Park change.

The research involves pragmatically exploring the potential for either remaining at the current 117-year site or finding a new location for the club to thrive in.

Their findings, in terms of both pros and cons, will be presented to supporters for further discussion in a timeframe still to be finalised.

However, the promised consultation will not take place until after Pompey’s next club board meeting on Thursday, January 28.

A key figure in the process is Saunders, a registered architect with more than 15 years experience in professional practice and partner at PDP Architecture LLP in Havant.

And the Trust board member insists all aspects of the emotive subject are being rigorously examined.

He said: ‘It’s about all working together and singing from the same song sheet, so the three of us have been looking at how the club is going to move the stadium issue forwards.

‘We are exploring what is feasible and what is not feasible so we can start having that dialogue and not come into any debate blank.

‘It is all very early, early days but we just wanted to hit the ground running with a bit of information.

‘Everything comes down to what is the best for the football club, not my opinion, not his opinion and not your opinion.

‘For example, I’ve looked into different building techniques, actual construction methods and making savings.

‘Barnet have a stand you wouldn’t think was a temporary structure yet was built for half the cost of a normal stand, so there are solutions out there.

‘I firmly believe there is the potential to rebuild the North stand.

‘The majority of Brighton’s facilities are in one stand, in fact most clubs tend to have their main corporate facilities in one stand.

‘In terms of logistics of the land, there aren’t many places around Portsmouth which are going to be able to hold a new football stadium so that is always a concern, as is funding.

‘Although the government are keen to build lots of new houses, we live in a time when they are not prepared to pay the grants for the funding they did 10 to 15 years ago.

‘Then again, the club is now financially secure and sound, its credit rating is going up and is the sort of business decent lenders would be interested in being part of – if you can put together a suitable business plan.

‘It is a minefield, a huge amount of details need to be explored – and that is what we are doing.

‘But we also want fans’ input and the plan is to hold a meeting, let them brainstorm, look at whether to conduct a survey or questionnaire, let them have their say.

‘Firstly, though, we need to give supporters a bit of information so it is not a complete scatter gun.’

Among suggestions explored if the club were to stay at Fratton Park would be the construction of a new North stand.

Alternatively, and considerably lower in cost, would be a fresh Milton end – the side of the ground in need of regeneration the most.

Either option would be equipped with corporate hospitality facilities.

McInnes believes the ongoing research demonstrates the club’s determination to plan for the future.

The chairman added: ‘As a board, Fratton Park takes up quite a large part of the agenda on an ongoing basis.

‘You cannot be custodians of the future of Portsmouth Football Club without being custodians of the future of where Portsmouth Football Club plays its football.

‘I volunteered to lead a feasibility study in the short-term, by that I mean two to four years to enhance the facility that is Fratton Park.

‘I am hopeful the feasibility study will be completed by the end of January so a proposal can be made to the board.

‘If we feel those ideas are workable and in any way attractive, we will make sure we engage with the fans.

‘We have got to make sure this is affordable and sustainable – very much how we run the club today.’

Lee is a fourth-generation Pompey fan whose great granddad attended matches from 1898 and grandmother was present at the 1929 FA Cup final.

Based near Denver, in Colorado, and the CEO of a software company, he has flown back for 10 Blues fixtures this season.

‘The starting point for me is everyone’s preference is to remain at Fratton if we can – but it has to be financially viable,’ said Lee.

‘As part of the research, I have been looking at the financial side. Mike is more the architect, whereas I am more how the numbers stack up.

‘Stadiums are a massive capital expenditure and the most important thing is ours gives us the fiscal ability to compete in the Championship or the Premier League.

‘We all recognise that down the years past ownership models have let us down considerably, the Fratton goods yard was the classic missed opportunity, talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

‘Now we have people looking at the long-term and not the short-term.’