That is the message from chief executive Andy Cullen, who is overseeing the stadium’s ongoing £11.5m redevelopment project.
Work on the North Stand lower will begin in January, reducing overall capacity to 16,200 until its scheduled completion in late July or early August.
By the summer of 2024, all stadium work is expected to be fulfilled, including the South Stand and a rebuilt Milton End, resulting in previous capacity levels of 20,000.
However, Cullen is adamant if owners Tornante had not sanctioned crucial Fratton Park improvements, health and safety would have dictated a 10,000 maximum.
He told The News: ‘The capacity was decelerating. It was probably going down to 10,000-12,000 if the work hadn’t been completed.
‘Capacity would have gone down slowly, not in one swoop, but that’s where it was heading, towards 10,000.
‘Don't forget, we started off the season with 16,000 and managed to get it back up through some discussions, some willingness and some creativity with everybody to make sure we had 17,500 as a full capacity.
‘At the beginning of next season we should be up to 19,000. Once the Milton End is completed the year after that, we will be up to 20,000.
‘It’s short-term pain this season, but it’s a problem which had to be addressed.
‘It’s not just seats, but also exits, the fabric of the building, the stairwells, the safety exits, areas which are trip hazards.
‘The club have been on notice to carry out the works by the safety authorities over the years, but I don’t think much had been done.
‘With season tickets needing to be renewed every year, we would have been under pressure in terms of why it wasn’t being done with it affecting capacity.
‘I think the time had come when we had to make the investment.
During the 2019-20 season, before the intervention of coronavirus, the Blues registered home attendees of 18,000-plus on 10 occasions.
Pompey’s highest Fratton Park crowd so far this term, amid reduced capacity, was 17,418 against Sunderland in October.
Cullen added: ‘If you want to run a sustainable football club, you have to maximise and earn as much as you can.
‘You need every seat in the stadium to have every opportunity – and basically a 10,000 stadium isn’t going to do it.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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