Portsmouth chief executive lays bare size of task to make Fratton Park modern football stadium

Fratton Park. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Fratton Park. Picture: Malcolm Wells
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Pompey’s owner has been romanced by her charm.

Like his football club’s fanbase, Michael Eisner has become enchanted with Fratton Park's character and unique qualities.

But beneath the rustic beauty of the grand, old lady lies a 120-year-old stadium which is creaking. And the extent of that is becoming more and more evident.

The arguments for pursuing Eisner’s vision for the Blues home are well documented.

READ MORE: This is what a redeveloped South Stand could look like

Even when removing the royal blue-tinted spectacles, it’s a fact there is nowhere quite like Fratton when it's transformed into a heaving bearpit at its intimidating best.

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin

And it’s a ground which echoes with the memories those who love her so much will forever cherish.

But now the reality of the size of the challenge to bring Pompey's only residence into the 21st century is apparent.

Mark Catlin yesterday told The News the club desperately need the help of the local community to overcome the issues holding back progress.

And the chief executive underlined a move away from PO4 is still on the table.

When the drain of an estimated £1m-a-year to fulfil health and safety requirements and wealth of other headaches are factored into the equation, you can see why.

Despite what many would believe, remaining at Fratton Park certainly isn't the cheap option.

‘There's so many different things supporters wouldn't be aware,’ Catlin said, of the issues the club are facing.

‘I see people say "why can't we do this and that?" I know full well why.

‘People know there's a huge power cable which runs at the back of the Milton End.
‘You've got the residents behind that and the sub-station in our car park.
‘It's okay looking at designs for shiny new north stands. But I look at them and ask where has this and that gone? Because millions or tens of millions need to be spent on that work - over and above the actual building of it.

‘We have a great relationship individually and with the political parties locally. They all want to help the club.  

‘The club has an amazing relationship with Donna (Jones), Gerald (Vernon-Jackson) and Stephen (Morgan).
‘But they are constrained by what national government can do to help them to help us.
‘We are working closely with them to try to address those issues, but it's a big challenge.’

And it's not just overcoming the problems impacting the renovation and potential expansion of Fratton Park which are the only headaches the club and council face.

The challenge of improving the infrastructure and transport network surrounding the ground is another massive task to consider.

The match day gridlock which paralyses the city, along with the ageing facilities, all feed into the Fratton conundrum.

Catlin added: ‘There's getting people into Fratton Park on an increased attendance to think about. That's in regards of the roads and train.

‘The infrastructure in the surrounding areas are, to a huge degree, out of control of the local council.    

‘Just look at Fratton station, too.

‘Would you want to invest tens or maybe hundreds of millions into a lovely new Fratton Park, once you've brought all the land around it which has cost more tens or hundreds of millions, to then arrive at Fratton station where it’s barely wide enough to fit two people side by side to get off the platform?

‘It's not a great entrance to your new stadium.
‘Then there's the roads coming into Fratton Park.

‘It’s an island which goes into funnel at Goldsmith Avenue which at the best of times is a traffic bottleneck.
‘If you look at the ways of getting people into Fratton Park it's not easy.

‘These are the kind of areas we really need help.’