Pompey pay the price as fans feel the pinch

Joel Ward, David Norris and Jamie Ashdown applaud the Fratton faithful following the draw against Cardiff with an empty home section of the Milton end behind them
Joel Ward, David Norris and Jamie Ashdown applaud the Fratton faithful following the draw against Cardiff with an empty home section of the Milton end behind them
Derry City winger Ronan Curtis

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It has been the new era Portsmouth Football Club had long craved.

Convers Sports Initiatives have brought with them a five-year plan and long-awaited investment.

Yet falling attendances form the backdrop to this encouraging regime.

League crowds at Fratton Park are down six per cent compared to last season’s average.

Overall, attendances across the Championship are down four per cent.

In addition, just 4,464 fans turned up to watch the Blues take on Barnet in the Carling Cup in Pompey’s first home game of the season.

That was the lowest Fratton attendance for 11 years.

According to supporter groups, ticketing pricing is the biggest reason behind the figures. Tickets have increased by 50 per cent in some cases.

An adult in the Milton end must now fork out £30 for a category A match.

That is a rise of 50 per cent compared to last season’s £20 cost.

Elsewhere, a junior in the family enclosure now pays £10 – up 25 per cent.

And a standard adult seat in the Fratton end is £25 – up 8.7 per cent.

In contrast to the rises, Pompey have introduced a number of initiatives aimed at saving fans money.

They include Super Six and, more recently, FourTress Fratton.

But attendances continue to be hampered as fans struggle to justify such prices in the difficult economic climate.

Ticket pricing is one of the many subjects Pompey Supporters’ Trust have raised with club chief executive David Lampitt recently.

And spokesman Scott McLachlan wants Pompey to take action.

He said: ‘I would like the club to actually ask the fans the reason for them no longer coming to Fratton Park.

‘If they did they will probably discover it is down to being too expensive.

‘As a Trust, we would like the club to have discussions with fans and for fans to be involved in decisions.

‘Then, hopefully, a solution can be found – otherwise this problem is just going to run and run and run.

‘There are supporters out there not in love with Portsmouth Football Club any more and if they keep attracting 14-15,000 every game they are going to have to tackle this issue sooner rather than later.

‘Personally, there are fans I have known for 20 years and half of them don’t go any more.

‘That is the apathy that has to be reversed.

‘Those people don’t have the appetite to go through all this again – certainly not at the cost currently being asked.

‘In fairness, the club have to be applauded for deals like Super Six, which at least shows they are trying.

‘But, in my opinion, the £2 match-day charge should be optional, even if it is going to charities.’

Lampitt, himself, has admitted the current pricing levels have been influenced by the previous regime.

Their decision to hike up the cost of season tickets has, in turn, impacted on match-day tickets.

Reducing entrance could upset those who have already bought season tickets.

And he admitted it was a difficult balancing act.

Lampitt said: ‘Season ticket prices were set some time ago by the previous ownership and board.

‘It is incredibly difficult to retrospectively change everything. A major, major undertaking.

‘We need to strike a balance. We don’t want to upset our existing season ticket holders.

‘There’s an argument our discounts were too heavy last season.

‘As it stands, we have taken our pricing to the middle of the Championship.

‘Also, considering the Reading match was midweek, like-for-like attendances aren’t too much different. Attendances are also down in the Championship.

‘We are not sitting here saying “that’s fine” and leaving it how it is.

‘We are still looking at other ways we can provide value to the fans and make sure we can get more people into Fratton Park.

‘It is all about finding a balance and protecting the club financially.’

Lampitt has promised to alter the pricing structure next season.

It is a pledge applauded by Tony Goodall of Pompey Independent Supporters Association (PISA).

He added: ‘Most fans recognise season ticket prices and ticket prices in general are legacy issues from the previous ownership.

‘What fans do not accept is there has been no subsequent review of pricing, especially as season tickets are a thousand down on last season.

‘There is no one reason for the attendance slump but pricing is the main one.

‘It’s too high in a city where most people are paid just below the national average and in an era where utility bills are leaping at 15 to 18 per cent.

‘Loyalty works both ways and fans are not seeing positive gestures regarding pricing.’