Fratton Park: What £10m redevelopment plans say about Pompey's future and the Eisners' commitment
Jordan Cross sat down with Mark McMahon to discuss Pompey’s £10m redevelopment plans for Fratton Park.
Q What do you make of the latest plans for Fratton Park?
Yeah, they’re broadly encouraging.
It's a financial commitment from Michael Eisner to the tune of £10m now, with £10m already invested.
You can draw certain conclusions to that.
In terms of an all-singing, all-dancing stadium, it's not on the same level in terms of the financial commitment for that.
But it's a step in the right direction.
We know Michael Eisner's commitment to Fratton Park and his preference to stay there – it's just another example of that.
It's work that is much needed, desperately needed, in fact.
Q Work starts immediately and will take four years to complete. It proves that maintaining Fratton Park is costly and time-consuming, but how feasible is that commitment in the long run?
This is big money that’s going into it.
I think people view Fratton redevelopment as a cheap option - it's not.
It's probably easier and it probably makes more financial sense to go to a site for a purpose-built stadium because there are so many associated costs with an ancient, well over 100-year-old, stadium.
I spoke to Mark Catlin many times about that and I think Mark has his personal views on that which he has always kept to himself because he knows Michael Eisner strongly favours the romance of Fratton Park
We all love the old girl, don’t we, but I have to make reference to the fact that every Pompey fan, and I remember in 1993 going to do my paper round along Pompey Parkway in Farlington and all the talk saying 'here it comes' with false dawns since – bonkers plans in The Hard and the one at Horsea Island.
I was thinking about this yesterday, I'm not sure I'll ever see England win a major tournament and I'm not sure I'm gong to see an all-singing, all dancing Pompey stadium.But I love Fratton Park, we all love it, but it needs to be fit for purpose in a modern era.
Q Why now, though? Is the because of the pandemic and doubts over fans returning next season? There will be a reduced capacity after all because of the ongoing work. Or has the Milton End project got anything to do with it?
The timing works in terms of what they've had to do through the pandemic already - and, again, uncertainty moving forward with a reduced capacity.
There's also, let's say it right, a political game being played here with key stakeholders in the locality.
We know about the walkway from Fratton Station, which is absolutely imperative, but who's going to take on the associated costs with that?
That's been a long-running saga so I wouldn't discount the way it's been stop, start because of that.
I must mention also, there’s been, in terms of the Eisners’ commitment, a lot of talk about what's going to happen with Roko (training ground) and Pompey's place within that.
In theory, you could get a purpose-built stadium there if you were to buy Roko and Rugby Camp around it.
That could be used as leverage in the whole debate about Fratton Park, so I wouldn't discount the importance of that either in the whole narrative.
Where are we with the Milton End?
We know there was planning permission granted last August and it seems to be that will go into the current process
But it seems that the Milton End is the lesser commitment with all the work that needs to take place.
Pompey fans probably don’t care, but the toilets in the Milton End do need improving and there’s a fair few alterations.The key, though, for me is that the whole essence of a new Fratton Park hangs on the North Stand and where the massive corporate facilities will sit within that.
It would be a huge financial commitment but to make it work you need that stand.Now with this work costing £10m over four years, does that raise a question about that big commitment on the North Stand and whether that's going to come in?Does it kick it down the road somewhat, because does it make sense to spend £10m on the work that’s been announced if it's imminent?
Q Michael Eisner will fund the redevelopment work, which will cost £10m. Will that quieten those who question his commitment to the club and ambitions for it?
Probably not for the conspiracy theorists – there's a lot of people who already have their minds made up.
Just looking on social media and the response to the commitment, the middle-of-the-road, reasoned fan are saying ‘well, this is a definitive riposte to people who are raising doubts about the Eisners' long-term commitment to Pompey’.£10m is no small amount.It's not, in modern terms, what you need for an all-singing, all-dancing stadium but it's a sizeable commitment. And we know there's been other money put in by the Eisners.
They got Pompey for a great price, let's have that right, but they made a financial commitment with a pot of money they put in (£10m) which the last has now probably been used up through the Covid pandemic.
But now they're in for another £20m for Fratton Park, so I think that's probably a strong riposte.
Again, with talk - and it is talk at the moment - of Roko possibly being bought by the club, that's another sizeable, financial commitment.
So that’s probably a good answer for those doubting the Eisners and how strong their commitment is to Pompey.