Mark Catlin’s verdict on what tier 3 restrictions means to ambitions of Portsmouth building fans’ return in new year
Mark Catlin admitted he feels Pompey’s hopes of a quick return to normality have been dashed after football at Fratton Park went behind closed doors once again.
But the Blues chief executive is adamant the club can still safely host games despite the city being placed into tier 3 restrictions by the government.
News of the move was announced by the home secretary this morning, meaning fans will not be able to attend home games following their return this month after a nine-month absence.
It means supporters will now not be able to attend the Boxing Day visit of Swindon, although remarkably Pompey’s following five games are all on the road.
Catlin felt the news was a big body blow to ambitions of seeing fan numbers building at home games in the new year.
He said: ‘Myself along with the staff, directors and I’m sure the fans are very disappointed we’ve unfortunately been placed into tier 3 and fans will not be able to attend games.
‘Personally, I’m bitterly upset because I felt this was the beginning of the end and at some point next year we’d get back to a level of normality.
‘Once again, the uncertainty which has been with us since we became aware of the virus has shown the only consistency right now is inconsistency in our direction of travel.
‘The government is driven by the science we’re told, but I feel we’ve proven time and again we’re fully able to put on sporting events which do not impact in any way on the safety of our supporters.
‘But in the scheme of things who are we at Portsmouth, when there’s much larger things going on at present as the rate continues to rise.
‘It doesn’t matter if we agree with it or not, they are the rules and we have to abide by them.
‘We are a business which conducts its business predominantly outside in the open air on a matchday.
‘So it’s disappointing and frustrating but they are the rules and we have to abide by them.
‘It caught me off guard when we heard it was likely, but it seems our short-term hopes of increasing numbers have been dashed.
‘It’s not the financial aspect which is as disappointing, it’s everyone’s expectation levels rising that we were on the way back to some level of normality. Those hopes have been temporarily dashed.
‘As we have for nine months we have to dust ourselves down, keep working hard and drive Portsmouth forward.’
The next government review into the tier system is expected to take place around December 31, although Catlin has his doubts about the likelihood of Portsmouth moving tiers in that period.
The next home game after Boxing Day is the visit of tomorrow’s opponents Hull on January 23.
Catlin is hopeful there will be some good news for Pompey by the time that date arrives.
He said: ‘It’s a personal opinion but I think the government are maybe being over-cautious in the lead up to Christmas.
‘Maybe because of the relaxation on rules they are putting the brakes on a lot harder to accommodate people seeing their families.
‘Hopefully we won’t miss too many games because we’ll go into tier 2 sometime in January.
‘After Swindon there’s that period where we haven’t got a home game - so there’s that hope it’s the only one we lose, but it’s out of our hands.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
The News has launched a new subscription offer which gives you unlimited access to all of our Pompey coverage, starting at less than £1 a week.
You can subscribe here to get the latest news and transfer updates from Fratton Park - and to support our local team of expert Pompey writers.