Pompey and The News – Two city institutions working ‘hand in hand’
BOTH were established while Victoria was on the throne and the British Empire still governed large swathes of the globe – and the growth of Pompey and The News have gone hand in hand with the Portsmouth’s evolution.
The football club was founded on April 5 1898, after a meeting of six businessmen.
John Brickwood of Brickwoods Brewery, Major Alfred H Bone a local architect, John Peters a wine importer, William Wiggington a government contractor, George Oliver, founder of Mile End school and John Pink, a local solicitor, met at number 12 High Street in Old Portsmouth.
Originally known as The Portsmouth Football and Athletic Company, it was here plans were formulated for what has grown to become a bastion of the city. As part of their plan, the group purchased five acres of grazing land close to Goldsmith Avenue, Milton, for £4,950. It was on this site that the foundations for Fratton Park were laid.
Initially constructed with with a seven row south stand and a 240 foot long north terrace the stadium was officially opened on August 15, 1899 with the first match, a ‘friendly against Southampton’, played on Wednesday, September 6, 1899.
The News was there to cover the birth of the club and that inaugural match. Since then we have followed the emotional roller-coaster of the football club’s life from first winning the Southern League in 1902 to being crowned Football League Champions in 1949 and 1950 and the FA Cup triumphs of 1939 and 2008.
During this period there have been relegations, promotions and even threats to the club’s very existence. Every step of the way, The News has been there to tell the remarkable story of a football club which is at the heart of the community.
As Pompey have evolved and the football media landscape has changed then so to has our coverage here at The News. With daily dedicated Pompey pages and a weekly Monday supplement, fans can still get their dose of traditional match reports and player ratings, team news and injury updates and manager and player reaction. With the advent of the transfer window and deadline day, the paper now provides round the clock coverage of potential player movements.
We have embraced the digital age to provide a 24-hour platform for fan interaction through, polls, votes, social media and the Pompey Talk discussion. This input forms the basis of articles centred around fans’ views and opinions.
We have have been speaking to those who matter most – the fans - about the intrinsic relationship between the football club and the local paper.
WHAT THE FANS THINK
The relationship between the football club and the local paper is summed up fan,John Westwood.
‘They both go hand in hand. The club and the paper work together to benefit the local community,’ he said.
For many supporters it is the staple diet of daily information as to to what is going on at their club which is at the heart of the paper’s enduring appeal.
John, who buys a copy of the paper every day, said: ‘I like to feel the paper in my hands. The News allows fans to keep in touch with what is happening inside the club. This is the club of the area, nearly everyone in the city supports the team, and The News plays a big role in promoting Pompey.’
Emma Bryant was recently covered by The News for her campaign for a minute’s applause for her father, Mark Webster, a season ticket holder who passed away.
‘I really like to read the interviews with the manager and players to hear their reaction after games. I also like to see the player ratings and compare them with my own scores. The paper plays a crucial role in keeping older fans, who may no longer be able to get to games, up to date,’ she said.
For John, it is not just the provision of news but the reliability of that information.
‘It is good to have the paper as a reliable source of news. You know what is reported in The News, unlike other online sources, is based on fact and not made up,’ stressed John.
For Emma, this reliability is built on the trust established between Pompey reporters and a their loyal readership.
‘It is about providing fans with reliable information that the club don’t put out there themselves. Neil Allen is well respected amongst Pompey fans and supporters put a lot of weight on his opinion,’ she explained.
Fan and former director, Mick Williams, who buys the paper every day, added: ‘The News provides good coverage of the football club and there is a strong relationship between the fans and reporters, Jordan Cross and Neil Allen.’
For Mr Williams, a former member of the supporters trust who took over the club in 2013, the paper played a pivotal role in holding previous owners to account and supporting the fans take over.
‘The paper have been rightly critical of the club when required and holding previous owners to account. They were also very supportive of our takeover movement and, since 2017, the subsequent stewardship of Michael Eisner,’ said Mr Williams.
It is a sentiment shared by John and Emma.
‘The paper quite rightly can’t just report all the positive stories and have played a crucial role in holding previous owners to account for actions which were damaging to the club,’ said John.
Emma added: ‘During the turmoil of the takeover, The News was vital in keeping fans up to date with what was going on.’
As well as bringing transparency to the club, Emma also feels the paper plays significant role in ensuring that supporters have a voice which is heard.
‘Supporters can often be forgotten. I definitely think the paper provides a platform for fans to have their say and be recognised,’ she explained.
With sports content consistently at the top of our page views the football club is central to the provision of our news content. Equally, the thirst for information from Pompey’s loyal fans epitomises the importance of the club to the to the city.
As John said, ‘It is a relationship which goes hand in hand’.
ICONIC MOMENTS COVERED BY THE NEWS
Ironically, for Mick Williams the game he remembers best is after relegation to League Two was confirmed in a season in which 10 points were deducted for going into administration.
‘It was 3-0 win at Fratton Park over Sheffield United. We had already been relegated but it really sticks in my mind as it was a brilliant occasion as I was part of the supporters trust which had just taken over the club,’ explained Mick.
For Emma Bryant it was the club’s FA Cup win in 2008 following on from the previous success in 1939.
‘For people of my generation that has to be the moment. Winning the FA Cup and being in Europe for the first time was just fantastic,’ she said.
It was the less salubrious surrounding of Notts County’s Meadow Lane which has a firm place in John Westwood’s heart.
‘Promotion from League Two at Notts County in 2017, with Paul Cook at the helm, was fantastic and a sign the club was on its way back. It was also the last game for the supporters trust and for them to bow out on such a high was brilliant,’ he said.