Architects of Portsmouth survival seeking to create fresh footballing legacy
Pompey stand as a glorious reminder of the remarkable tenacity of a unified supporter base.
Now the architects behind its restoration are targeting imparting another legacy upon the city.
The Pompey Supporters’ Trust have spent several years exploring the concept of a community pitch project, a vision driven by remaining funds following the August 2017 share sale to Tornante.
Initially, a site was identified for a single pitch within the city, the precise location protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Yet ambition has now escalated.
The Trust are proposing joining forces with Pompey in the Community and Moneyfields Football Club to fulfil a potential £3.5m venture to boost sport within the area.
The non-league club received planning permission in September 2018 for the construction of a state-of-the-art complex at their Moneyfield Avenue home, involving the renovation of two pitches, a new clubhouse and 95-space car park.
However, Moneyfields have subsequently approached Pompey in the Community for assistance in meeting such financial demands, also bringing the Trust to the table for a possible three-way partnership.
Pompey in the Community will effectively take over the existing project to own the site on a freehold, thereby becoming eligible for grant funding by Sport England and the Football Foundation through its own charity status.
As for the Trust, with £303,638 residing in their bank account, including £117,000 allocated to uninstructed shares, funds exist to make a sizeable contribution.
According to chairman Simon Colebrook, the supporter group seek to commit £250,000, a sum entirely dependant on receiving the go-ahead from members.
They will then strive to double that figure through a crowdfunding drive, in addition to charity events, with a grand total of £500,000 locked in their sights.
And Pompey in the Community chief executive Clare Martin, also a Trust board member, is excited what the concept can offer youngsters in the city.
She said: ‘We’ve got to make it happen. This is about enabling any youngster who wants to kick a ball to be able to do so.
‘There are little ones just starting out, kids who don't necessarily want to be in a team, who just enjoy playing football, so we need to give them an opportunity.
‘We have 17 teams and, at the moment, every bit of revenue we bring in and work so hard for goes on paying other people, pitch hire and all sorts of things.
‘According to Sport England’s Playing Pitch Strategy, if we built another seven pitches in the city, they would still all be full, you can’t get a slot, which is scary and impacts on every grassroots club.
‘We are coaching thousands of youngsters each week and could do a whole load more, there are so many things we aren’t doing because we don’t have the capacity or can’t afford to do it because every time we kick a ball you have to pay.
‘Pitch hire is extortionate, £126,000 a year. The ground for our BTEC team is in Alton, so every Wednesday and Friday, our mini-bus takes teams to Alton to play their ‘home’ games. So for youngsters to represent us, they must travel to the north of the county, which is nuts.
‘Consider the expense of that on top of pitch hire, mini-bus fuel and drivers – that money could go back into the community to enable us to do more.’
Another funding stream behind the Moneyfields project is the sale of one acre of the seven-acre site to a housing developer.
In accordance with the original planning permission, there will be the construction of 12 houses and 14 flats, with 49 parking spaces and 12 garages.
In addition, a new two-storey club house is to be built between the pitches, potentially housing a cafeteria and classrooms.
Trust chairman Colebrook said: ‘We have this pot of money left over and, rather than have it sat in a bank account doing nothing, we want to deliver something which shows not only did we save the club, but also left a legacy for the city.
‘We all know what interest rates we get with bank accounts, being a bean counter, I think we get a quarter of a per cent on that money. It is never going to generate anything, but the social impact it can have if we invested into this community scheme could be worth far more.
‘So why not sign off with another achievement by the fans who put the money in in the first place.
‘The scale is clearly daunting, but we raised £2.5m in the middle of a recession. We don’t need to raise quite that much money now, but if we can collect another £250,000 from donations to match our money, that’s £500,000, which can give a good start.
‘We will launch a general appeal. Our board member Mike Briscoe raised £6,500 through a charity football match earlier this year, he has a million ideas and we’ll be leaning on him to help us with this.
‘I am really pleased with the reaction, there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm when the project was unveiled to members at Wednesday night’s AGM.
‘You could see from the show of hands that it received overwhelming approval from the meeting. I am confident when we take this to the membership to get full permission, they will also be receptive.’
According to Martin, there remains the possibility for lodging grant applications by January.
Should the Trust confirm their presence in the partnership, she hopes the work transforming the home of Moneyfields can begin at the season’s end in May.
She added: ‘We have yet to get the finite figure, we are looking somewhere around £3.2m to £3.5m.
‘Moneyfields cannot afford to develop the area, so may as well sell it all off for housing. However, with us getting involved, the developer will buy the freehold of the seven acres and give that six acres back to ourselves, with Moneyfields coming into that.
‘We have some way to go for the finer details, as long as we look at it as a partnership then it will be really positive.
‘I think it’s really exciting, it will mean there’s a hub there which will give us an opportunity to do more free and open access things with young people and adults.
‘Our ultimate aim at Pompey in the Community is for anybody who comes through the door, there is something for them.’