Has Michael Eisner delivered on his Portsmouth promises and pledges? Time for you to decide
It was an unprecedented evening in Pompey’s history: the night the club’s prospective buyers laid out their vision to the people of Portsmouth.
Michael Eisner, his sons Eric and Breck along with Tornante president Andy Redman sat in front of the Blues shareholders through community ownership, and detailed how they would take their team forward if the buyout was given their blessing.
Now, four years on, the Eisners find themselves under the microscope with questions being asked by some fans about their Pompey stewardship.
So we now examine exactly what was promised by the former Disney chairman, both in his presentation and ensuing question and answer session at the Portsmouth Guildhall,
For the sake of clarity, Eisner’s words have been grouped into subject matter with the words pertaining to each area within the 90-minute address included. As for the rest? Well, that’s up for you to decide.
The right man
It might be time, maybe it’s time, it could be time to accept outside help to improve the club’s chance of returning to former glories.
That’s not to say it wouldn’t move forward without you, but I think I could be the right man to help the club in the right direction.
I appreciate the game of football is steady and strategic. That’s how I like to play - a long game which is thoughtful, creative, forward-thinking - way forward-thinking.
I want to maintain and build a successful team you can support and be proud of.
We will continually listen to you - that’s why we will establish a heritage and advisory board.
This will be a means to make your views known. This board will be consulted on all major decisions.
That will include a full veto on change to the club’s name, colours and relocation of the club’s ground beyond a certain distance from Fratton Park.
If that was to happen which I doubt, I would want to move the shortest distance logistically possible from where the ground currently sits.
It’s of primary importance to have a stadium which is safe and secure.
Fratton Park is a treasure, but it requires urgent work just to retain its safety licence and capacity.
The club, Pompey Supporters’ Trust and our own analysis support meaningful investment is needed in the near term to make the stadium safe and improve access for disabled fans.
We are prepared to make that investment to achieve our long-term goal of expanding capacity.
We hired a structural engineering firm to make a full assessment.
Their estimate for safety improvement concluded the cost would be somewhere around the £5m level, depending on what is found during construction
They expect this would still result in some reduced capacity due to reprofiling stands.
These costs are for safety not for expansion of the stadium, team or the academy.
We are focussed on making the matchday experience everything it should be: that means everyone who works at Fratton Park works for the fans.
Everyone who sells goods, cooks food or clean the stadium works for the fans. Excellence must prevail.
We also need to focus on the reason we have a stadium - the team you put on the pitch.
We will focus on identifying and fielding the best players possible.
This will not be a sudden transformation but a slow, steady and smart investment, so that success can build on success.
We’ll enthusiastically support Clare Martin’s work in the Pompey in the Community.
Clare’s work lifts the club from a sporting club to a community asset.
Another area of investment will be the academy. This is crucial to the fans and to the future.
The Roko facility is solid, but we believe future enhancements will enable the club to increasingly rely on homegrown players.
I’m excited with the Portsmouth academy because it offers the opportunity to develop future stars from within the organisation.
I’ve always thought it's smarter to invest in new young talent rather than to pay ridiculous, outrageous over-the-top sums for the current reigning superstars.
Homegrown talent, grow your own talent and the academy pay off: that is the only way to run it.
If you run it (the club) with a hope we’re going to get into the Premier League and spend £80m to get there, two years later you’ll lose £180m and you’ll shut down.
The last thing I want to do is Americanise Pompey. That would just be plain dumb.
One day if Portsmouth are to get into the Premier League it will be unholy to everything which makes this place, this city and this club so special.
Always armed with our moral compass, we play to win.
Supporters not retaining a share in the club
There is a tremendous investment ahead.
It’s not just an investment for safety and security it’s an investment for improving Fratton Park, it’s an investment to enhance the academy and obviously it’s an investment in the team itself.
All the way along for quite a while it’s losses.
Every time you invest, the other owners are decreased in their ownership.
No matter what the percentage, if someone puts in money the value of the other shares go down.
This would happen every three months. On that basis, it made no sense.
If you said there was a floor that would be additional compensation.
We felt the compensation was fair, considering the enormous and foreboding investment as you move into League One and then get into the Championship.
If you think this is a good direction for your club, we will fairly manage it and be transparent but not give you the right to approve who we sell it to in 60 years or the right to how we run it day-in, day-out: if you don’t want us to have that, don’t give it to us.
Level of financial commitment
I don’t want to come back to town one day and answer for outrageous statements I could’ve made while presenting this plan. It’s the plan I hope to achieve I’m presenting, not one that is unsaid.
It takes years, even decades to fully nurture, develop and love a reputation you have. That’s whether it’s Disney, ESPN or Pompey.
For us to make a commitment in the 10s and 10s and 10s of millions of pounds, unless we’re idiots we can’t be bound by the lack of being able to leverage.
The major investment for us is not the acquisition, it’s getting a team which sustains itself year in, year out. We felt if we do it, we should own the whole team.
As I look at the obligations of what you could lose in League One and the Championship and what a team is worth, it seems to me the team is worth less than what it takes to get to the Championship.
We’ve all read about that if managed badly, If you then aspire to get into the Premier League, that’s expensive in staying there.
The answer is management, consistency, don’t change your manager every six weeks, don’t buy ridiculously expensive players, don’t look at the averages of what other people lose and say that’s the norm.
Where will we be in five years?
We have to be conservative, we have to fix the safety problems in the stadium, we have to begin to enhance the academy and give Mark (Catlin) enough but not too much to play competitively in League One.
To be solid in League One for a number of years. We don’t have to get to the Championship in one year, it could be two, three or four years.
Then get to the Championship and again have our academy beginning to pay off.
The strategy is not to get into the Premier League tomorrow, but our strategy is to get into the Premier League someday.
It’s not to spend ourselves into a hole which forces leverage and anxiety, and then forces instant gratification and long-term disappointment.
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