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Mark My Words - CEO Mark Catlin's February Blog

Added on 21 February 2014

Mark Catlin yesterday shared his first blog with independent forum and fans site 'Pompey Online' in what is expected to be the first in a series of articles from the club's CEO.
Club PR Consultant Colin Farmery said: "As a club we have an obligation to try to reach as many fans as possible with our message. Mark Catlin and I had been discussing for sometime how we might particularly target fans who use message boards and forums, many of who use that as their sole source of Pompey information.
"Until the end of the season we have decided to pilot publishing Mark's blog, entitled Mark My Words, on fan websites on a rota basis. We chose four of the longest-established sites to get the concept going.
"All the publishers have been very supportive and the initial feedback we have had from them and from the threads on message boards is good. The idea is that although one site is hosting the blog each month the other sites also link to and promote it.
"That way fans can also get to see the rich variety of Pompey fan sites out there, as well as encouraging a spirit of cooperation between them, which can only be good for getting information to fans.
"The first site to sign up for the idea was Pompey Online - a site has been around for ten years and has more than 5,000 registered users. Other sites we are using initially are truebluearmy.com, Vital Pompey and Fratton Faithful."
Here is Mark's blog :-
I am delighted to be writing the first of what I hope will be a regular monthly blog for you after the terrific win against Wimbledon at the weekend. Certainly it has lifted everyone’s spirits in and around Fratton Park.
It’s been nine months since the club exited administration and in that time I can assure you all that Portsmouth Football Club has become all-consuming to me; it’s not a job, it’s a passion. Only a fortnight ago it was a very different feeling to how I feel after Saturday’s result. When the equalising goal went in at Exeter I genuinely felt as though I was going to be sick. For hours after I replayed the game in my head, over and over again, but whatever way you replay it the ball still went in the back of the damn net. I couldn’t sleep and spent all day Sunday with my mind preoccupied with the previous day’s result. My feeling is not unique. Board members, players and staff, and of course you the supporters, go through exactly the same emotions. Unfortunately it’s not the first time I (we!) have suffered like this during the season.
As low as I feel after a defeat or late goal, as chief exec it’s vital that I lead the way in trying to pick everyone else up. On Monday morning if I am downbeat, grumpy, negative, then how can I expect everyone else to pick themselves up and prepare for the coming weeks fixture? I keep reading how many games we have lost in the last five years, how we have a ‘losing mentality’ running through the club as a result of successive relegations, and how the ‘unrealistic expectations ‘of fans are adding to this. I can assure you that this is not the case. Yes, I hurt like everyone else after a defeat or late goal, but that ‘pain’ should make us even more determined to succeed in the future. Board members, players, staff and supporters, need to realise that we are all in this together. United we stand, divided we fall!
I have been speaking with Colin Farmery (who handles the club’s PR among other things) for some time now about how we can improve communication with fans. I think it’s important to remember we already do quite a fair amount in that regard. We update the official website just with news stories at least three times a day, we have an official Twitter feed (and some of our directors and players Tweet in a personal capacity as well) and we regularly update our Facebook status.
We have a regular slot on the Express FM Football Hours and club officials players and the manager attend various supporter club meetings. Johnny Moore, the club’s Supporter Liaison Officer keeps our various fan groups involved and manages day-to-day contact with supporters. Club managers speak regularly to The News and in turn this ends up online. However, we are always looking at ways to improve, so we want to try this regular monthly ‘blog’ from me which will be particularly targeting our online communities, such as message boards and forums. That’s why we are trialling using club fan websites to publish this blog on a rota basis.  Trying to get the balance right between too much and too little information is a fine call – we don’t always get it right, but we do have the desire to continually improve and make it better.
In the near future we are going to be publishing a comprehensive fan survey. It is in the final stages of preparation and will give you a chance to voice opinions across a broad spectrum of topics associated with YOUR club. I completed a test run this week and my only advice will be to make sure that you are sitting comfortably and have a drink at the ready to keep you going as it really is an in-depth questionnaire. It is important you commit the time however, as the only way that we can improve is by having a better knowledge of what fans are thinking.
An event which generated some correspondence in my inbox was the shifting of the Chesterfield match on March 1 from the Saturday to the Monday night. A number of fans contacted us complaining they had been left out of pocket by this decision. Clearly the club being on live TV earns us a fee and also allows many more fans than otherwise might to see the game, however I am delighted to say I took the decision on behalf of the club to refund in full all fans who sent us validated claims. This was a gesture of goodwill and in future fans should note that matches home and away can be shifted to accommodate television as little as three weeks beforehand.
The planning application has finally been submitted for the new Tesco stadium development and we need supporters to get behind this. To clarify, as it is a question which comes up from time-to-time, the club does not currently own the land behind the Fratton End or behind the North Stand, and has not done so for several years now. All we own is the stadium. This deal is good for the club because the developer and club President Stuart Robinson will give us land to the north of the stadium and also a strip behind the Fratton End as well as a substantial cash injection that is totally ring-fenced by Portsmouth City Council to be used only for improvements to Fratton Park. The land we acquire means we are confident it gives the club the scope to increase the capacity and commercial opportunities for us in the future. No concrete decisions have been made yet in regards what we are going to do with this money, but we feel this is a great opportunity to find other sources of finance so we can start what we hope will be a comprehensive redevelopment of areas of the stadium. Too often in the past the club has over-promised and under-delivered on its stadium intentions and we do not want to fall in that trap. If we are to achieve the stadium we want and need to progress, we will have to do some significant additional fundraising, but the conversations around how that could happen are already underway and we will be consulting further with fans once we have various options to consider.
The club is also working extremely hard to secure a permanent training ground. Talks are at an advanced stage and we hope to be able to announce something concrete to supporters within the next couple of weeks. I have to say that everyone at the club, and the various bodies that we are talking to, have been hugely supportive in trying to make this deal happen. For me, this is currently the club’s top priority after naturally securing our league status.
Lastly, I think it’s important to know just how important YOUR role is in us climbing back up the league pyramid. Whilst results on the pitch have not been as good as we would have hoped for, through your loyalty and commitment YOU have given us the financial flexibility to make a real difference, both on and off the pitch. There are not many clubs and grounds that I have not been to, and by a mile Pompey fans are the best out there. Fans are always welcome to make their feelings known and I am always willing to see fans one-to-one if they so wish. After all, it is the fans who are the football club!
Football is not an exact science, and for all the hard work everyone is putting in behind the scenes, ultimately we will be judged on how well we do on the pitch. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a results based business.
We have a vital game coming up against Accrington Stanley on February 25 and I hope to see you there for that one and we will also have a fantastic ticket deal on offer for the Cheltenham game on Saturday March 8. More details will be revealed soon.
Play up Pompey!
Mark Catlin

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