Fans net moral victory after series of U-turns

Commercial director Lucius Peart, right
Commercial director Lucius Peart, right
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It was another U-turn in a series of U-turns.

This week has seen Pompey backtrack over one aspect of their controversial season-ticket pricing.

Although the prices remain the same, the ‘early bird’ scheme to offer supporters reduced season ticket prices has been extended to April 28 and the credit card problem is being looked at.

On these points, the club have to be commended for listening to what fans had to say and acting accordingly.

But it was only in the face of outrage and a subsequent barrage of brickbats that the club’s hierarchy were persuaded to think again.

A moral victory rather than a thumping triumph.

Nonetheless, it needed to be done if Pompey were going to win back the supporters they had alienated.

Let’s not forget, though, it was actually a remarkable U-turn which brought this to a head in the first place.

For on Wednesday, February 23, the club announced to supporters very different proposals to the ones which were announced less than a fortnight ago.

That was when commercial director Lucius Peart stood up at the inaugural Pompey supporters’ meeting with chief executive David Lampitt.

Set in the backdrop of the Victory Lounge in the presence of some 200 fans, it was Pompey Independent Supporters Club chairman Barry Dewing who raised the subject of future season ticket pricing.

‘We are very aware of the position of the football club at the moment,’ Peart said.

‘There are certain factors we will take into consideration in terms of VAT. There’s also a levy from the Football League.

‘But it is not going to be a massive hike.’

He went on: ‘One of the greatest assets this football club has is the continued support of fans who turn up regularly through good and bad times, thick and thin.

‘The last thing we want is to frighten anybody off with massive price rises, particularly when the world is a difficult place to live in at the moment with fuel and all sorts of things going up.

‘We are very aware of the pressures the fans are under and are trying to make sure we come up with a sensible rise.’

They were interesting words from the man who orchestrated the pricing for this season’s tickets 12 months earlier.

On that occasion, the club’s efforts to reduce the costs in a bid to bring the fans back to Fratton Park was applauded.

Clearly, from his address to the fans, this time around Peart anticipated prices to rise.

Yet there was certainly no indication of the sort of escalation which has seen some fans’ season tickets rise by 22 per cent and matchday prices topping 39 per cent.

So what happened between that meeting and the unveiling of the 2011-12 prices which stunned many supporters?

Back to that February 23 evening, another supporter, Barry Lennard, asked about the ‘early bird’ deal for next season.

Peart said the final details had to be worked out but that the club had been working hard to get the price right.

‘It is not my ultimate decision – there has to be a board meeting – but at the moment the planning is the early bird will go on sale around the middle of March and close around the end of April,’ he added.

So in February fans were being told the ‘early bird’ was likely to be open until the end of April. Two weeks ago this wasn’t the case.

Now it appears Peart, Lampitt – and the fans – finally have their wish. Which throws up the final question of who instigated the initial U-turn which threatened to undo much of the good work to repair Pompey’s battered relationship with the community?

Lampitt has declined to comment, while Peart has been on holiday.

Pompey fans will have to make up their own minds over who made the call.

Whoever it is, though, should be in no doubt about the depth of feeling provoked in what are undoubtedly the club’s ‘greatest assets’.