Portsmouth reveal ambitions to build training ground dome as they respond to cancelled friendly criticism
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Pompey have plans to build an indoor coaching facility at their Hilsea training base.
But the existence of the much-desired amenity would not have stopped the Blues from cancelling their behind-closed-doors friendly against non-league Aldershot last month.
The club faced criticism from certain sections of the fan base following the decision to call the game off because of a frozen pitch at the training ground. The fixture was pencilled in so that the likes of Connor Ogilvie, Tom Lowery and Anthony Scully could get some much-needed game time in their legs after lengthy injury absences. However, weather conditions on the day of the match meant no play was possible.
Some supporters used the cancellation as an excuse to hammer the club for the facilities currently on offer at the rebranded Pompey Health & Fitness Club. But speaking at the latest Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference, sporting director Rich Hughes said an indoor training dome would not have facilitated such a game. He also stressed that no first-team training sessions were cancelled as a result of the freezing conditions experienced.
Hughes said: ‘I know there was a lot of talk online about this, but lots of games were called off up and down the country that day – very little football was played anywhere.
‘We had the opportunity to play the friendly on a 3G pitch, but we were planning to use the game mainly to bring back players from injury, so we only wanted to do that on a grass pitch so as not to aggravate their injuries.
‘We wouldn’t have played it on 3G indoor pitch even if we’d had one. The first team squad trained as normal that week – we didn’t lose any training minutes.’
Since buying the former Roko site for £3m in 2021, Pompey have spent millions of pounds bringing the facility up to standard, with the priority being to create an elite working environment for the first team. A further £1m is expected to be spent on the integration of all first-team operations into the main building, allowing the club to remove the existing portakabins which house John Mousinho & Co and to create even more space for pitches.
No timeframe or additional details on a planned dome have been made public, but chief executive Andy Cullen insisted it was part of the Blues’ long-term vision. He also backed up Hughes’ assertion that an indoor training pitch would not have solved the Aldershot friendly cancellation.
Cullen said: ‘Moving forward, we have the ambition to do a number of different projects. Our vision is to have a dome at the training ground. The next stage is to fully integrate the first team into the main building at the training ground, as that enables us to remove the portacabins they currently use, which frees up more grass. We also have more available space where the old Play Football facilities were. We are also maintaining dialogue with our neighbours on future developments.
‘I don’t think having a dome would’ve solved the problem of the friendly mentioned above. We would never have played such a game on 3G or in a dome as Rich has outlined. Where 3G becomes useful is for the academy. Our academy rent five different sites each week, as they train in the evenings and need floodlit services. Having an indoor dome would be expensive but would bring down those rental costs as it would be kept in house.’