Ex-Pompey board member Williams: Eisner gets my vote

He was one of the leading figures in rescuing Pompey from footballing oblivion.

Tuesday, 21st March 2017, 6:04 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:51 am
Mick Williams is one of the Pompey presidents

Now Mick Williams believes community ownership has run its course at Pompey.

The former club board member is convinced Michael Eisner is potentially the fit-and-proper character required to bankroll the Blues.

Williams stood alongside so many others on the front line of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust battle to save the club from liquidation.

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Following High Court victory in April 2013, he subsequently spent two years on the boards of both the Trust and the club.

These days he is one of the Blues’ 16 presidents – in addition to serving as chairman of Pompey Ladies, while remaining a Trust shareholder.

Williams learned of the identity of Eisner as a bidder on Sunday night, during a conference call with Mark Catlin and his fellow presidents.

And the 68-year-old revealed the American billionaire would get his vote should a negotiated bid be tabled to shareholders.

He said: ‘Everybody in the city did a brilliant job when we saved the club from extinction, we stabilized it and made it sustainable.

‘But I don’t believe the current model can take us much further – and I have been saying that for a long time.

‘I see no way in which we can take the club to the sort of levels the fans and most of us want.

‘Outside investment is needed and that time is probably now.

‘I cannot stress how proud I am of what we achieved. Nobody can be prouder than me when I checked our credit rating after a few months and found we had a below average risk rating.

‘However, our income hasn’t really increased over the last three or four years. Unless we put season ticket prices up dramatically, it isn’t going to increase a lot in the near future.

‘I also strongly believe we need to spend a huge amount of money to meet Fratton Park’s health and safety requirements. That is even before you think about making it a better place for the fans.

‘We have an old wooden South Stand, an old wooden North Stand and a Milton End which everybody knows the line of the steps are not right.

‘I just fear we’d have to spend millions on it and that can only come from either the fans or further investment. As for building new stands, they are out of the question.

‘It’s too late now for the Trust to raise a considerable amount of money through a community share issue to maintain their percentage share holding. Besides, you cannot keep asking fans to dip into their pockets.

‘We do have a bit of money in the Escrow account through the Tesco deal, but that isn’t going to last long and what do we do then? If we have to spend money on the ground it has to come out of the playing budget.

‘And can we expect the gate revenue we are currently receiving if the team is not doing as well as it should be?

‘Everyone heavily involved in the club realises we need new investment and I believe there have been all sorts of people, most of them probably tyre kickers again, who have been enquiring.

‘Now we have an American billionaire. If we created a checklist of what we would regard as a good, prospective owner then it looks like the Eisner family business ticks all the boxes

‘Fans are nervous and quite rightly so because of previous owners.

‘However, maybe now is the time when we should be proud of what we’ve done – but start looking at something different.’

Eisner remains in negotiations with Pompey’s board, with a summer outcome anticipated should talks continue to progress.

Once an agreed bid has been finalised, it will then be put to club shareholders, which consist of the Trust and the presidents.

They will then be presented the opportunity to vote, with Williams having the distinction of being affiliated to both camps.

In the build up to such an outcome, the full extent of Eisner’s deal will be released, with the likelihood of the prospective owner meeting fans to explain his plans in person.

Until that time, there remains a shortage of finer details, yet Williams is encouraged by the background of the American.

He added: ‘We were minutes away from not existing and I don’t believe we could have come back very easily on a Plan B because we wouldn’t have had Fratton Park.

‘Then under the stewardship of the current board, the club has made an annual profit which is almost unheard of in football. Although it’s small, we certainly haven’t been racking up debts.

‘During those days I met some of those interested in buying the club, I spoke to others on the phone. People like Joseph Cala, Laurence Bassini, no thanks.

‘Then you look at Michael Eisner’s background.

‘I have not spoken to him. The presidents were made aware of potential interest in January and kept in the loop, but only found out his name on Sunday evening in a conference call.

‘I cannot speak for the Trust, but from the presidents’ point of view there is a lot of optimism about this deal. Certainly, there is no reason to stop talking to these people.

‘Obviously, at the moment we don’t actually have a hard, firm offer on the table – but they are making all the right noises.

‘I know it’s early, but we don’t have anything to lose by continuing discussions and negotiations with the family.

‘Then, assuming it gets that far, let the shareholders make the decision.

‘Subject to the final offer, I am inclined to say I would vote in favour of Michael Eisner. I am very excited about the situation.

‘I just think now is the right time.’