Why Portsmouth voices can still be heard

Michael Eisner addresses Trust shareholders at Portsmouth Guildhall in May 2017, persuading them to relinquish control. Picture: Neil MarshallMichael Eisner addresses Trust shareholders at Portsmouth Guildhall in May 2017, persuading them to relinquish control. Picture: Neil Marshall
Michael Eisner addresses Trust shareholders at Portsmouth Guildhall in May 2017, persuading them to relinquish control. Picture: Neil Marshall
Having rediscovered their authoritative voice, approving the motion to stifle choked many.

Completion of the mooted Tornante takeover necessitated the sanctioning of ditching fan representation within Pompey's boardroom.

The crucial inducement to understandably suspicious Portsmouth Supporters' Trust shareholders involved the creation of the Heritage and Advisory Board, a consultation platform granting access to the prospective new ownership.

It was a proposition emphatically ratified in May 2017.

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The 10-strong body are scheduled to hold their fifth and latest meeting on October 20 before the Fratton Park clash with Fleetwood.

And Trust chairman Simon Colebrook is convinced the arrangement is proving effective.

He said: '˜Yes, we once were directors of the club and had actual decision-making power.

'˜Ultimately we are not decision makers in the club now, however we are still influencers, we still have an open door to be able to express concerns, to ask questions and expect to be given some answers.

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'˜I don't think the board is lip service. If we were just being spoon-fed minor information then yes, maybe it could be, but I don't think we are.

'˜We haven't just met with Michael Eisner, Eric Eisner or Andy Redman. David Fields spoke to us on stadium issues, while we've met two or three others from Tornante.

'˜There really isn't a question we've been unable to ask or receive an answer for. When I query about the finances, I get a fairly detailed report on them.

'˜The Trust must take that dual role of representation '“ with also soft guardianship to make sure they (Tornante) know the issues concerning the fans and we can ask pertinent questions about finances and stadium progress on a regular basis.

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'˜When issues worth discussing come up, such as trademarking, we are able to have a dialogue to understand why they were doing it, how they intended to operate the trademark. They understood the concerns felt among people in Portsmouth.

'˜To be fair to them, they have been very interested in keeping us up to date. I feel very positive about the way it has developed so far.'

In terms of the Heritage and Advisory Board make up, the Trust are represented by Colebrook, Clare Martin and Donald Vass.

There are also three presidents, namely Mick Williams, Martin Moyse and Dave Willan, accompanied by Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin and chief operating officer Tony Brown.

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Completing the 10 sitting on the group are Blues director Eric Eisner and Tornante president Andy Redman. Pompey chairman Michael Eisner, although not an official member, has also been known to attend.

Colebrook added: '˜These are early days, there has been a fair bit of getting to know each other and a little bit of trust building as well.

'˜It was very noticeable, particularly towards the end of last season, that we had relaxed into being able to talk to each other openly.

'˜Before the final game of last season, they took us through the work they've been carrying out in investigating the stadium. Much of it is publicised, like their trip around Europe and looking at all other grounds.

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'˜They have kept us abreast of some of the works planned over next summer, we have seen a timetable of work ahead of us, so it's not just another false dawn.

'˜There's nothing quite as formal as a non-disclosure agreement. Instead, we are directors of what is called the Heritage Company and one of the rules of being a director of that company is to keep the business of that company confidential.

'˜If any of us broke that confidentiality then the remaining nine people could effectively vote that person off.

'˜The reality is it's less about whether or not we would be ejected from the Heritage and Advisory Board, it's more about whether Michael, Eric or Andy would continue to have trust in the group to be as open as they are, which is very important.

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'˜At the moment, Michael has been very up front with us and there is no question we can't ask, providing he has the confidence we will keep it confidential.'

Since the board's maiden October 2017 meeting, Colebrook and his colleagues have been consulted on a number of high-profile decisions.

These include the redesign of the club crest finalised in March, while there was dialogue over trademarking of the '˜Pompey' name, secured in August.

According to Catlin, the relationship is proving an ongoing success.

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Pompey's chief executive said: '˜The fans' voice is still there, but the Heritage and Advisory Board is not really set up to be a fans' voice.

'˜It is there as a protection, it's a lot more proactive and a lot more involved than possibly people give the organisation credit for.

'˜Effectively it's a replica of the old board's make up in regards the mix of it. As Michael said when he took over, he loved the structures in place and didn't want to rip that up.

'˜The Heritage and Advisory Board have been given a lot of confidential information, which has never got into the public domain.

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'˜We trust the members on the board, not only in regards of information but their knowledge and experience of our fan base and what makes Pompey tick.

'˜The Eisners and Tornante see that value, they have embraced it, we work very, very well together '“ long may it continue.'

Colebrook's predecessor, Ashley Brown, sat on Pompey's board for more than four years.

Those were days of fan ownership '“ but the Trust's current chairman remains optimistic a strong bond between supporters and Tornante can continue being forged.

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Colebrook added: '˜It has been satisfying to see that relationship build. Over the next year or maybe year after that it will get stronger.

'˜Once the really hard decisions need to start being made about the stadium and the future, that is when we'll see the Heritage & Advisory Board come into its forte.

'˜It still has some more to grow, but I'm very encouraged where we've got to so far.'