Ambitious Portsmouth Trust unveil future plans after departure of chairman following six years in charge

The Portsmouth Supporters' Trust chairman has stepped down after six years
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The youngest chairman in Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust history has been appointed as they focus on the future.

Simon Colebrook has decided to step down after six years in charge, a period which covers the post-fan ownership era so far under Tornante.

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His replacement is Donald Vass, who has served on the board since 2017 and sits on the Heritage & Advisory board, as well as being secretary for the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference.

The 33-year-old, who is a teacher at Chichester’s Jessie Younghusband Primary School and North Lower season-ticket holder, also played a key role in the Jimmy Dickinson statue project.

And, following predecessors Jo Collins, Ashley Brown, Ken Malley and Colebrook, he represents their youngest appointment.

Vass told The News: ‘We are very mindful that we have quite an ageing membership base at the moment and are very fortunate to have them.

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‘However, we’re keen to diversify a bit more and reach out to some of those younger people, bringing more of them on board with the Trust.

‘One thing I’m looking at quite soon is putting out a survey to Pompey fans to see what their priorities are, what sorts of areas they want us to engage with the club on, and what matters to them.

‘We do a really good job of representing fans, but don’t actively go and seek their opinions enough - and that’s something we’re going to do a lot more of. I also want to do more on social media, where we probably haven’t been active enough.

‘There are three main strands I see as the Trust’s purpose. The first is celebrating the past, with the Jimmy Dickinson statue a really good example of the way we can work with the club to preserve some of the club's history. We’re also working with the 125th Anniversary Committee and still have a few other projects we are hoping to do.

New Trust chairman Donald Vass (centre right) stands next to the Jimmy Dickinson statue, which was unveiled earlier this season.New Trust chairman Donald Vass (centre right) stands next to the Jimmy Dickinson statue, which was unveiled earlier this season.
New Trust chairman Donald Vass (centre right) stands next to the Jimmy Dickinson statue, which was unveiled earlier this season.
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‘The second big strand, and probably the main purpose of the Trust, is enhancing and improving the voice of supporters, and have regular dialogue with the club on all sorts of issues.

‘The third strand is safeguarding the future. Clearly we've had a chequered history with owners and it’s important we safeguard that and make sure things are working as they should do.

‘I believe we have a really good working relationship with the owners. We see ourselves as a critical friend, there to challenge when we need to, and have pretty robust discussions. We’ve had a few arguments and disagreements in meetings before.

‘In addition, Simon (Colebrook) independently reviews the club accounts with Tony Brown each year, so if there are any warning signs of trouble, we could flag things up at that stage

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‘Simon is a tough act to follow, he’s a man of such integrity. I feel really fortunate to continue working with him and will do my best for the supporters.’

Colebrook, who became chairman in August 2017, previously served two years as the Trust’s treasurer, replacing Steve Tovey.

The chartered accountant will now return to the role, while remaining an active voice on the Trust board he has occupied since 2015.

Colebrook added: ‘It just feels like time for a change. I have always believed you should move on from a position before you get stale or go past your sell-by-date - so it’s onto the next chapter of the Trust.

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‘Donald played a huge role in the statue, alongside Ashley Brown and Jo Collins as a joint-team. Pretty much all of the fundraising initiatives were managed by him and he has all the credentials to become an excellent chairman.

‘My time in the role has been interesting, challenging, fun, difficult, every adjective you can think of.

‘We started off with a bit of an existential crisis in terms of does the Trust have a role in a non-fan ownership world, so we had to indulge in a bit of navel gazing to redefine what we were.

‘We also had the not insignificant challenge of taking the £2.75m we received from the sale and giving it back to our shareholders. Then moved onto the John Jenkins Stadium, and next nearly two years focused on the statue.

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‘We’ve built lots of engagement channels with the club, which gives fans many different routes to feed concerns and comments into the club through either the working groups, the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference or direct individual cases, and then the big strategic stuff through the Heritage & Advisory Board.

‘I’ve enjoyed lots of support from the club, Andy (Cullen) has been brilliant, Mark (Catlin) was always helpful where he could be, and we’ve worked as much as we can with the owners.

‘I have no intention of going anywhere, though, and the Trust absolutely has a future.’

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