The Cross Word: Time to forget the sniping as Trust enter new era

The Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST) are defined by their role in saving Portsmouth Football Club.
Johnny Ertl has been to Schalke on a fact-finding mission. Picture: Joe PeplerJohnny Ertl has been to Schalke on a fact-finding mission. Picture: Joe Pepler
Johnny Ertl has been to Schalke on a fact-finding mission. Picture: Joe Pepler

Now the PST are entering a defining period in their own evolution.

And finding that common sense of purpose and sense of direction after a ‘difficult’ period is going to prove critical in how they move forward.

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Six years on from a few hardcore fans with concerns about Pompey’s financial plight meeting at Smiffys Bar and the Lady Hamilton pub, the PST has transformed into a beacon for the organisation of football supporters on these shores.

But 2015 has also delivered arguably the most challenging year in its existence.

The death of chairman Ken Malley in June was a sad moment for all connected with Trust and, indeed, Pompey, just five months after assuming the position.

That followed on from director Ashley Brown’s departure from the role, Mick Williams stepping down from the Trust board, the furore over a ‘life-saving’ loan to the club’s former engagement officer Micah Hall and Steve Tovey’s departure as treasurer after publication of the Trust accounts were delayed.

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It’s enough flak to batter the hardiest of institutions into submission.

The Trust aren’t the Labour Party in turmoil, however.

And that’s where the two organisations differ when it comes to elections at the top.

The elevation of Simon Colebrook, Scott Mclachlan, Clare Martin and Johnny Ertl to the board this week can be the catalyst needed to energise the PST.

Entwined with the knowledge of the 10 existing members, it should make for the right mix of experience and new impetus.

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Monday’s Trust board meeting promises to be a landmark occasion.

That’s where the message will be preached about the direction the group are headed.

As someone at the PST said, it’s a year in which a lot has been said and not a lot done. That needs to change.

‘It has been a difficult year there’s no hiding from that,’ said Trust and club board member John Kimbell, on the past 10 months.

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‘Certain people haven’t agreed with decisions and gone a different route.

‘But we’re at the point of being invigorated. We want to press on.

‘The bottom line is to represent our members as best we can.’

As a democratic organisation, it can be very easy for a Trust to become mired in the processes which were put in place to make them accountable.

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Of course, in many ways, they are there to safeguard the football club with it still touching a 48-per-cent stake in Pompey.

But, as best is possible, the bureaucracy needs to be avoided now, instead eschewed for the ideas and bright thinking the Trust undoubtedly possess.

Ertl this week spent time in Germany where he took in a fact-finding mission with Schalke, a club with 136,000 members.

You can’t go on Facebook without seeing board member, and local architect, Mike Saunders air his ideas on how to redevelop Fratton Park.

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In club director Brown, the Trust can call on someone who was at the heart of the club’s fight for survival and was an impressive figurehead in his time as their chairman.

The Trust have nearly 4,000 members, a legion of ideas and a drive to see Pompey back on the map – with solid foundations.

They now have to show they can play their part in making it a reality.

‘Whatever’s happened we’re in a place to look forward,’ Kimbell said.

‘The sniping is behind us and we have the right people to make the future exciting and refreshing.

‘We all want what is best for the club. This is our passion – that’s why we do it.’