They say that football is a crazy game and yesterday certainly proved that point. Pompey on the back of five straight wins and travelled to far off Bury who never lose at home. Shortly after half time the Blues find themselves 3-0 down and up against it.
Awfs then made changes and goals from Danny Hollands and Ryan Taylor appear to have changed things until Bury go up the other end and make it 4-2 with three minutes left. Game over – no say Pompey and Sonny Bradley and Wes Fogden tie things up in injury time to earn Pompey a point and move them into the top half of the table.
A win next week against Plymouth will guarantee a top ten finish and after the season Pompey have had that is totally crazy!! Incidentally I gather tickets are selling like hot cakes for that game so if you want one act quickly.
Congratulations too must go to the group who cycled 300 miles to Gigg Lane raining money for charities linked to poor Jack Robinson who recently lost his fight with a brain tumour aged just four. They arrived at the same time as the team bus.
In League Two though at last things are sorting themselves out – Rochdale and Scunthorpe are promoted and Torquay despite a plucky 3-1 win at Mansfield are relegated to the Conference. Wycombe must win at Bristol Rovers next Saturday to survive. If they do and Northampton lose at home to Oxford it will all be down to goal difference.
Mark Catlin gave a long and detailed report to the One Year on conference held by PST last week and the Toast team have picked the flesh from the bones and include an abridged here. To be honest it is well worth a full read and can be found on the PST website.
Over to Mark
I will begin by speaking about our on field ‘results`.
Despite the bookies making Portsmouth early season favourites, it was generally accepted that we started the season with a mid-table player budget, and a new management and playing team that was effectively built from scratch.
Yes, as CEO I sounded out plenty of warnings pre-season that it is difficult for clubs to arrest consecutive relegations, and that staying in League 2 was our absolute first priority, however a year ago almost to the day, following the momentous events that unfolded in court, Myself, along I would say with many others sat in this room, believed that the biggest challenge facing us during our first year would be trying to financially stabilize the club off the field of play, and stability was the word that was continually used to describe what we wanted to achieve during the coming season.
As the season has unfolded trying to reverse the clubs on-field performances has in fact proven to be the biggest challenge that we have faced. Two managers leaving the club, injuries to key players at key times, a conveyer belt of players in and out, has led to a season where we have constantly sailed in choppy waters having to react quickly as events unfolded. Unfortunately football is not an exact science, and as a club our ‘interference` in the playing side must always remain at working to create the best financial and physical environment conducive for the manager and players to work in.
I can 100% assure all supporters that both managers benefitted from a prudent but continual increase in the playing budget during their tenure and that the board and executive supported them both right up until their last respective game in charge.
Subsequent to Richie Barkers departure the PFC board has correctly taken the decision to delay the appointment of a new manager until our league 2 status has been confirmed, and whoever is chosen as the new manager will once again enjoy the full support of both the board and club executive in what I expect will be another busy summer for the management team.
Despite the fact that we are still well within reach of a top half league finish, we have to be honest as a club and board and say that generally our on-field performances during this first season, whatever the reasons, has been disappointing.
Our off field performance has however exceeded all expectations.
In addition to the problems that we inherited as we exited administration, the club embarked quickly on an ambitious plan in trying to fulfill many of the promises that were made whilst being a ‘board in waiting`.
Examples of our first year work/achievements include;
1) Kiosks were upgraded and brought under the direct control of the club.
2) The whole C&B department was brought ‘in house`.
3) A complete rebranding of the matchday programme.
4) The launch of completely new official website.
5) Launch of Pompey Player.
6) TV`s installed in the concourse areas.
7) General refurbishment of matchday facilities.
8) A new ticketing system.
9) All supporter group meetings fully supported by the club/players/board/executive.
10) Continued and enhanced support for PITC.
11) An extremely healthy matchday corporate hospitality % occupancy rate.
12) Season ticket sales in excess of 10,600.
13) Average attendance in excess of 15,200.
14) Supporters voting on third kit for next season (we are hoping to extend this for the coming season).
15) A comprehensive fans survey that is currently being dissected and results shortly to be published as a report for supporters.
Furthermore work has been undertaken this year in preparation for the coming season in regards of;
1) A new training ground.
2) Work at Fratton Park to increase capacity back above 20,000 for next season.
3) The main pitch to be completely upgraded and re-laid during the summer.
4) The launch of a new Pompey Lottery.
5) The Tesco development.
6) A strategic five year plan.
7) A new disabled section.
8) A new Pompey interactive commercial website.
Of all the above proposed projects for the coming season the training ground is of the utmost importance for both our short and long term ambitions, and we are hopeful that we can make an announcement regarding this project imminently.
We have successfully managed to source external funding for much of our capital expenditure this past season via the purchase of additional shares by our Presidents and the PST, and the club owes all of those that have continued to invest in the club a huge thank you for enabling these essential works to take place during our first year of trading and beyond.
Financially we have worked diligently in adhering to, and actually progressing, the budget that the PST prepared for our first year of ownership. Increased revenue streams and the continual driving down of costs across the business to a level more aligned to a League 2 club have resulted in our ability to increase the original playing budget, whilst at the same time we have continued to reduce budgeted first year losses. Our whole focus has been on achieving sustainable growth, and despite this increase in our playing budget we are currently on course to achieve a first year P&L trading loss of approx 300k, compared to the original 750k that was budgeted for. This equates to a substantial 450k improvement on budgeted first year operating figures.
Tony Brown (Financial Director) has been one of a number of new personnel added to the off-field team that has not only streamlined, but increased productivity across a number of key areas.
Our financial aims are clear;
1) To be debt free
2) To operate a financially neutral operating profit and loss budget.
3) To continue to invest in our infrastructure.
4) To continue to increase our playing budget whilst at the same time working within the parameters of 1-3 above.
Behind the scenes at Fratton Park, and following on from various in-house business reviews, there has been a gradual restructuring of the off-field team. Notable additions during the year have arrived in the form of Tony Brown as Financial Director, Ian Home as Human Resources Manager, and Mark McCominskey as Catering & Banqueting Manager. We are also in the process of bolstering our sales team across both the C&B and Commercial departments.
As you would expect many lessons have been learnt during the first year of PFC being the country`s largest fan owned club. The business that is football is completely different to any ‘normal` business and it is very difficult to judge the success of any club as they each have different goals and ambitions.
As I write this report on the anniversary of the first year of fans ownership, the off field business model itself is performing extremely robustly compared to the original business plan prepared by the PST, and we are confident this will remain the case as we enter our second year.
Our focus during the coming season must be to continue to drive down costs, increase revenue, rebuild our infrastructure, whilst all the time trying to deliver the highest possible playing budget to give the club the maximum possible chance of on-field success, as ultimately this is the area in which we will eventually be judged.
The words of YOUR Chief Executive on the performance of YOUR club and they make good hearing. Surely the corner has been turned and the proof that fan ownership works in there for all to see.
What`s in a name?
Toast is a column that has been running since January 2008 and was a name I dreamt up when I decided to write a Sunday morning blog; not Sunday roast but Sunday Toast. Well it seemed Ok at the time and a couple of years later as a mark of respect Sky Sports introduced the toaster as their logo on Goals on Sunday!
However I must congratulate a Northampton blog that I caught sight of early in the week entitled ‘Gripped by the Cobblers`. Perhaps Toasters we need to think of something a little more catchy, what do you think?
Toast Player of the Season
A real tricky one this season as so many players have been involved. Most seem to plump for either Sherlock Homes or Frank Carson; got any views Toasters?
Good to be back on Sunday morning and plenty of good news too. Not something we have been able to report much of this season.