There has been a lot happening at Portsmouth Football Club in recent weeks, with the appointment of the new CEO, Andrew Cullen, the announcement of new investment and development work at Fratton Park and the acquisition of Roko.
PST Board Members have met with the club on three fronts - the Heritage and Advisory Board, the Tony Goodall Fans' Conference (TGFC), and also directly with Andrew and club Supporter Liaison Officer, Johnny Moore.
Minutes from the TGFC meeting can be found here: https://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk/siteassets/pdfs/202122/tgfc---july-2021.pdf, and a summary note of the discussions from the Heritage and Advisory Board can be found here: https://www.pompeytrust.com/news/pst-attend-heritage-and-advisory-board.
The notes from our meeting with Andrew last Monday, 28th June follow:
NOTES OF PST BOARD MEETING WITH ANDREW CULLEN via Zoom on Monday 28 June 2021 at 7.00pm.
Simon Colebrook (Chair) welcomed Pompey’s new Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cullen, to the monthly PST Board meeting and thanked him, and Johnny Moore, for attending.
Mr Cullen was introduced to the members and officers of the PST Board, and in turn gave his own brief introduction as follows. He started his career with 12 years at Bass brewery. He then moved into football with 11 years at Norwich FC as marketing director, moving to MK Dons in 2008, where he built up the stadium including a 304 - bed hotel. Mark Catlin asked him in January this year to consider taking up the role of CEO at Portsmouth. He is aware of the big history of the Club, has respect for the supporters in rescuing it from liquidation, and has a feel for what it means to the people of the city. He is sure of the long time commitment of the owners and is here himself for the long term. The objective is to get to the Championship, and take it from there. He has had a whirlwind start in his first two weeks, with the announcement of the £11 million investment in the stadium, the acquisition of the Roko site, and ongoing player recruitment. He wishes to integrate Portsmouth in the Community (PiTC) more closely with the Club.
Simon Colebrook (SC) asked Mr Cullen to give his vision in the short / medium term for the Club. AC said the overall aim is to achieve success on the field and establish the Club in the Championship. His first few weeks involve listening and learning. He is talking to colleagues, to community stakeholders, and to supporters, with whom he will continue the existing channels of communication. He will do his best to listen to fans and communicate. The recruitment process involves a wholesale change of players, which will take time. There will be more signings this week. It may take three transfer windows to get the team you want. Greg Miller will shake things up in the Academy, which will be allied more closely with the first team. PiTC will also be important in its coaching activities in identifying new talent. The Club has a good staff, with Tony Brown and Anna Mitchell top officers. The Club needs to be an admired and successful business of which the city is proud.
Questions and Answers
Mr Cullen then answered questions from Board members, as follows.
Q. (from Graham Berry - GB) Concern that the Club’s playing budget is reduced this season, but other clubs are not cutting theirs. Also how do we become sustainable in the Championship with the same stadium capacity?
A. The market is distorted. Not much is going on in the Championship, and in League One Ipswich and Wigan have new owners and are splashing the cash, while Sunderland and Charlton are doing the same. Our own budget is slightly down, but we can still be intelligent by buying emerging young talent with a “sell on” value. We will also use loans, and have a network of good contacts. The owners have no inclination to take money out of the Club and any profits will raise the playing budget. Need to be smart in recruitment. The Championship is “a basket case” and not sustainable.
Q. (from Donald Vass - DV) What is the long term vision of the owners? The purchase of Roko and the announcement of stadium improvements help, but there is a need for the owners themselves to say something publicly. GB said the owners have become very quiet. SC accepted that the Club is structured with the CEO as the face of the Club, but it would be very valuable to hear directly from the owners.
A. AC agreed to share this request with the Eisners. Johnny Moore said there would be an interview with the Eisner's out in July.
Q. (from Mark Farwell -MF) How important is stadium size in terms of revenue?
A. There is a need to optimise capacity. We need to carry out improvements to maintain this at 20,000, but the redevelopment of the North Stand is the key to increasing capacity. But it is one step at a time.
Q. (from SC) Is there a goal for this season - promotion or consolidation?
A. Danny Cowley wants promotion, but we may need patience. A big turnover of players has a health warning, but we will have a real good go. Other clubs are paying too much for players.
Q. (from Jo Collins - JC) Is external revenue more important than capacity, as in the Brentford model which the Club has previously indicated it would like to follow?
A. Brentford has identified great talent and then sold on, but has no academy. We need to make our Academy very fluid and to make tough decisions if players are not considered good enough. Swansea is a successful model.
Q. (from GB) Did the Club take any disciplinary action over the Astoria night club incident?
A. Unable to comment personally, as not present at the time, but need to use it to reinforce the standards expected of players representing the Club. Johnny Moore said the incident was regrettable, but not exactly as reported in the media.
Q. (from DV) What are the intentions for the Roko site?
A. The site comprises two parts: the training facilities; and the gym and Play Football element. The immediate issue is how best to use the space in the gym. The Academy needs to be brought back to Roko and integrated with the first team. Not sure yet, but we could increase the number of pitches and upgrade the Academy.
Q. (from Ashley Brown) Can you give an assurance that the use of flexi season tickets will not cost supporters more than a normal season ticket? How many season tickets holders may have to move seats as a result of the improvement works this season?
A. It is impossible at present to know how Government guidelines will change as the season develops to allow to allow attendances at Fratton Park. There is some hope that it may be possible to have 16,000 in August/September, but I think it will be less. The principle that no one should be disadvantaged as a result of the flexi season ticket system is accepted. Supporters will be involved in the process.
Q. (from SC) We’ve seen reports linking Robert Gagliardi with the potential Sporting Director role. We’re also aware from Leyton Orient fans of some baggage and reputation from his time there and you may need to reassure fans about this important high profile role.
A. We need to get what’s right for the Club. I need to understand what everyone at the Club does at present in order to decide if the post is necessary. Clarity of role and responsibility is essential.
Q. (from JC) Are you thick skinned - the Club has a volatile section of supporters to whom results are vital, and will you be able to deal with them?
A. I try to keep a level head after a game, win or lose. Defeat is “an occupational hazard” of the job. Stick to your principles.
Question from Mr Cullen
SC asked AC if he had any questions for the PST Board.
Mr Cullen said the disabled facilities at Fratton Park were very poor and needed big improvements. He would like to establish a group of disabled supporters in the next 2-3 weeks to discuss the issue. SC said that Clare Martin the CEO of PiTC would be able to give him a list of contacts.
Mr Cullen ended by saying he wanted to continue communication with the PST and supporters.
SC again thanked Mr Cullen and Johnny Moore for their attendance, which was much appreciated.