A Pompey champion who bows out with integrity

Responsibility has long balanced upon the shoulders of the South Stand season-ticket holder.

Saturday, 23rd September 2017, 11:39 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd September 2017, 11:42 am
Ashley Brown leaves The Rolls Building at the High Court following the Pompey Supporters Trust victory in 2013

Saving a football club from a premature death, maintaining its hard-won existence and then overseeing the glorious blossoming so craved by a city – the pre-match pint at the Eastfield has remained unsupped.

For almost six years, Ashley Brown has been a pivotal figure at Pompey.

The life-long supporter, the father of two, the IBM global asset manager, this shouldn’t have been his battleground. Yet he made sure it was.

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Brown, left, celebrates Pompeys League Two title win with John Kimbell and Mark Trapani on Southsea Common

As chairman of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, he was integral to the club’s preservation during the scrap against liquidation – and instrumental in a resurgence which culminated in the League Two title.

Tornante’s takeover ensured a four-year residence on the Blues’ board was last month ended.

Now, on Monday, a board meeting will officially signal the dissolving of Brown’s second spell as the Trust’s chairman.

The 48-year-old will remain on the Trust board, the creaking soapbox is able to withstand a little more wear.

Brown, left, celebrates Pompeys League Two title win with John Kimbell and Mark Trapani on Southsea Common

Yet the time has arrived to ease burden which has weighed upon his generous nature since the summer of 2011.

As a relative of former Pompey chairman Dennis Collett, who served from 1966-1973, the lure of Fratton Park incumbency is instinctive.

However, Brown has stepped back into more comfortable surroundings.

He said: ‘My time involved at Pompey has certainly been eventful.

‘As a Trust we have achieved some amazing things, from raising the finances to initially save the football club and then our involvement in running it as part-owners.

‘Hopefully, I played a part in turning the football club around and also making sure fans were properly represented on the club board.

‘My great uncle was actually on the board of the football club in the late 60s and early 70s – and as chairman.

‘Some of my earliest memories of coming to football as a tiny kid was travelling to games in his Daimler and then sat in the directors’ box.

‘My uncle was a very special man and a big, big Pompey fan. He was involved in some troublesome times and had a bit of an acrimonious run-in with the Deacons, which ended his involvement with the club.

‘He was present during one of the club’s toughest eras. It had no money and was run by a number of local businessmen who were relatively successful, but not as successful as they could throw thousands of pounds at the club.

‘We’ve had some troublesome things to deal with ourselves, but had the huge high of last season. It wasn’t just winning the title, but where we came from.

‘You look at what we did to take over and save the club, what we had to do to turn it around and how we learnt about the inner workings of football – and it is a bonkers business.

‘You never expect to end up being a director at the club you support – and that was an incredible honour.’

Following the Trust’s formation in February 2010, Brown was elected to the group’s board.

His replacement as chairman will be decided on Monday, while he is still weighing up whether to feature among three Trust representatives on the club’s heritage & advisory board.

Regardless, the accountability which previously saw members of the Trust select Pompey managers has been relinquished.

Brown added: ‘We appointed four managers and I think learnt some lessons from early on, although perhaps not soon enough.

‘The reasons we had for giving the jobs to Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford were absolutely right, it’s just that perhaps we could have done a little bit better with some of the decisions we allowed them to make or didn’t direct them properly.

‘I very much remember the drive back from Rochdale where myself and Iain (McInnes) had a long discussion about Richie Barker and we both feared under his leadership he could take us into the Conference.

‘We agreed we needed someone to rally the troops to get us out of this trouble and both thought Awfs was the man to do it. The board agreed.

‘What an amazing job he did and he was desperate for the role permanently. Andy’s ambitious, he loves this club so much – but it didn’t work out.

‘Paul Cook got a bit of a rough ride by some people. In many ways he was historically the archetypal manager that Pompey fans want, he jumped up and down on the touchline, was passionate about results and spoke his mind, sometimes to his detriment.

‘We really tried to convince him to stay, but I don’t think any of us will quite know exactly the full truth of what was in Paul’s decision-making process. But he should be remembered as a very positive boss who won the League Two title.’

In October 2016, Brown was appointed chief executive at Supporters Direct.

Familiarly, the role aids fans striving to run their football club.

He said: ‘I am very proud how the Trust handled the takeover process.

‘We set out to provide detailed information, we wanted everyone to be able to make an informed decision and we asked Michael Eisner to address as many shareholders as possible at the Guildhall.

‘So to be accused by some of bias and trying to block Pompey’s future was quite frankly ridiculous. I think we acted with an amount of integrity.

‘I don’t have any bitterness towards people wanting to have a different owner, that is the beautiful thing we set out. We created a system where the fans would pick the next owner.

‘There are a small number of agitators and some had been around the year before we took over and all the way through. Those same agitators are already having a pop at the new regime. You need a thick skin.

‘As directors, we always put ourselves out to be contacted – and I’m not going to disappear just yet.’