The Pompey owners happy to be held accountable

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You could never stop Milan Mandaric, bless him, from talking.

Well, that’s apart from the numerous times he banned The News in a fit of pique before kissing and making up with the paper’s big wigs, usually over a glass or 10 of Chianti at the Pizza House Restaurant.

From left to right: Andy Redman, Eric Eisner, Michael Eisner and Mark Catlin. Picture: Habibur Rahman

From left to right: Andy Redman, Eric Eisner, Michael Eisner and Mark Catlin. Picture: Habibur Rahman

But it’s been 12 years since the much-loved Serb relinquished ownership of Pompey, at the end of an eight-year voyage we all look back on so fondly now. And dialogue with the club’s owners was to take a marked downward turn in the aftermath of his exit.

Mandaric jumping off the royal blue rollercoaster was to spark a period of seven years where words with club owners emerged about as frequently as a decent atmosphere at St Mary’s Stadium.

There was the man, for example, who steadfastly refused requests for interviews over a three-year period.

But then it was his convicted arms trafficker father, who was the club’s de facto owner.

And then there was the owner who decided to utilise that well-known conduit to Pompey fans of an Arabian business website to do his bidding. That lasted for only 43 days, though, before being sentenced to five years in prison earlier this year for stealing the money he used to buy the club.
It would have been easier to get Lord Lucan and Richey Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers around the table than land a chat with the next owner, while the last figure before community ownership saved the club was more interested in suing The News than talking.

So the events of the past week are to be applauded, as Tornante afforded supporters their clearest insight into their thinking since arriving at the helm last August.

The four years preceding their arrival sent a refreshing wind of change sweeping through the club when it came to approachability.

The Pompey Supporters’ Trust and the club’s executive staff rewrote the book when it came to engaging with their fanbase through their stewardship. By their very nature they had to.

It would be easy to grow accustomed to having those channels into the club and perceiving that as the norm. Pompey recent history tells us that’s not the case – as does a look around the English game.

The good news, though, is the new regime appear to have no intention of following many of their predecessors.

Between Michael Eisner and Tornante president, Andy Redman, The News were last week afforded around an hour’s one-to-one chat at the club’s unveiling of University of Portsmouth as their new main partner at Fratton Park.
What was all the more refreshing was the overall honesty and frankness of those conversations.

No subject was off limits and there was no press officer loitering to interject at any perceived uncomfortable line of questioning.

That led to the issues fans care about being tackled with everything from budgets, Fratton Park, Kenny Jackett, recruitment and the owner’s philosophy on the agenda.

Was there complete clarity? No, but when details weren’t forwarded, like the methodology for redeveloping Pompey’s home or Jackett’s kitty for players, there was a polite explanation of why that was so.

When one of Pompey’s previous decision makers arrived on a ticket of transparency, which turned out to be anything but, this comparatively felt like being given the keys to the data room.

With Mark Catlin’s open-door policy continuing, the flow of information from PO4 remains clear and largely unfiltered.

As Redman himself highlighted, the owners will rightly be judged on actions. But being accountable can also make their words seem pretty loud to fans.