Portsmouth owner Michael Eisner has reassured supporters that he is at Fratton Park for the long haul, with success for him meaning Pompey are challenging at the top end of the Premier League.
Eisner took over from the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, PST, in August 2017, and last season saw the first silverware under his stewardship with the EFL Trophy and the team just failing to gain promotion to the Championship.
While reiterating his ethos that the club would stay on a firm financial footing, there was a heavy investment in the playing side over the summer – eight players brought in to Fratton Park.
But Pompey paid for that with the sales of Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe, and Eisner assured supporters there would be no return to the days of spending beyond their means.
While fans have seen some great Pompey sides over the past 11 years, an FA Cup win and European football, they have also endured many lows. There were successive relegations; administrations; owners coming and going; and the club seemingly about to go out of business on a regular basis.
Stability arrived in the form of the PST who bought the club in 2013. They sold on to the Tornante Company in August 2017, headed by Eisner, with the future of the club guaranteed.
And in an interview with the club website, Eisner confirmed he is not interested in selling – no matter what the price offered – and he is committed to keeping the club at Fratton Park.
“I’m not a seller – ever,” said Eisner, speaking to portsmouthfc.co.uk. “There’s no price that anybody could offer me for Portsmouth that I would accept – I wouldn’t even take the meeting.”
The club won their first league game of the new season on Saturday with a 2-0 success over Tranmere Rovers, with promotion remaining the target for Kenny Jackett’s side.
The club finished eighth in 2018, fourth last season, and the aim of Eisner is to see improvements on and off the pitch, season by season. He is also determined to turn the club into a global brand, and is keen to utilise the history of the club and city to do just that.
He added: “We just want to improve all the time – a little bit, a lot, whatever, but always moving in the right direction, solidifying: the company, the club, Fratton Park, how we operate, so we are very pleased. It’s not that it’s always going to go perfectly but so far, so good.
“Everything now is approaching a strategy to be global. We’re watching Portsmouth play football from many places in the world. I watch every game that I’m not in England for on ifollow or ESPN+ – we get messages from every corner of the world. That could not have happened five years ago.
“So, if you have players, personalities, talents; there will be people around the world that are impressed. If you have multiple talents they will be impressed by the institution. Pompey’s a famous team and Portsmouth is an extremely famous and historic city – not just known in England. A team representing Portsmouth has been around since 1898.
“I don’t think we’re going to be selling Pompey hats in every corner of the world but I think we will be appreciated. We want to be known as one of the hardest working teams, a consistent team and a consistent management. It’s not luck; luck doesn’t create championship (winning) teams and it really isn’t money either – of course money helps – it really is a consistency of purpose and I think we have that.”
While many fans want success sooner rather than later and expect money to be spent to get that success, Eisner’s approach is to spend only what the club can afford.
Revenues generated will be based on the success of the team and the players brought through the ranks, and Eisner believes that is the best way to ensure the club gets back to the top flight – a target shared by both him and the fans.
“I cannot imagine that Pompey will not be a Premier League team,” he added. “Your aspiration is to be number one – it’s in one’s DNA. When that’s going to happen, I can’t tell you. In an interview I said a decade and people said ‘what’s wrong with five years?’ and ‘what do you mean it’s over ten years?’ It could be five years, it could be ten years, it could be longer. The goal, in an intelligent and well thought-out way, is to be in the Premier League and not to be at the bottom of the Premier League. That is not my goal.
“We’re not going to buy our way into it because by buying your way into it you’re actually buying your destruction – that’s not my goal.
“It’s a false image that money solves everything – and it seems to be getting worse and worse. My view in business is it’s a big world and there is a lot of talent in the world. The key is finding the talent, nurturing the talent, having it be your talent and that is your strategy. Occasionally you’ll make an investment in a player and we made some investments this year – they weren’t crazy, they weren’t out of line. We’ve sold some players for decent amounts of money and I think discipline on the pitch and behind the pitch are essential for success.
“The idea is to always have the revenue exceed the costs – I know that sounds simple but it is worth reminding.”
Whilst understanding the restrictions of development at Fratton Park, Eisner is committed to staying at the club’s home since they were founded in 1898. Work has already begun on improving facilities at the stadium with the club working closely with the council on all stages of development.
Eisner said: “The stadium is like buying a great house built a 100 years ago where they heated by gas and cooked in a fireplace but the roots of the house are so beautiful that you renovate. You put in air conditioning, heating, and the right plumbing.
“Fratton Park is where the fans are right there, right on the pitch; hard to duplicate, it can be done. It’s one of the big assets of this football club. Did it need painting, did it need new piping, did it need a new pitch which we put in this year, new lighting which we put in this year, does it have to be made safer; more access, better lit access, fire protection? All of which you don’t see but is essential in a modern stadium.
“Now we have to think what are we going to do to enhance the presentation, the comfort.
“There’s certain things that have to be accomplished before we are totally fixed, and some of those are not in our control. Before we are committed, committed, committed, committed to Fratton Park forever, we have to work with the city, we have to work with the railroad, we have to make it easier to drive in, we have to make the walk from the train station to Fratton Park more pleasant – we don’t want people getting hit by cars on the road.
“There are things that need to be done which are out of my control. That said, we have found the city to be extremely responsible and receptive and wanting to help us so we can stay. We don’t have any intention of leaving; the only thing that would force us to move and build a new stadium is if we can’t deliver the experience for our fans that I think they deserve.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen – that we’re going to leave. We’ve met with city council, we’ve met with the elected and well-intentioned and smart people and we’re on the same track, so the only track we have to improve is the railroad track.
“I like people that are travelling by train to feel it’s easy; I like people travelling by car, that are walking, I want the whole experience to be perfect.”