Thank you for attending this evening’s Sky Bet League One fixture with Oxford United and a warm welcome to everyone who has travelled down the A34 to be with us. We wish you all a safe journey home later.
We are also delighted to have with us tonight – and, indeed, for Saturday’s home game against Shrewsbury – our chairman Michael Eisner, along with all our directors, Anders Eisner, Breck Eisner, Eric Eisner, Andy Redman and Mark Catlin.
This is Michael’s first visit to the UK since the pandemic and will be the first opportunity for many of us to meet him in person. We all speak regularly throughout every week via Zoom, but I know Michael, Danny, Nicky and myself are all looking forward to personally meeting each other face-to-face.
We have planned a busy schedule over the next few days. Michael and his family will be able to review and observe first-hand all the significant changes that have taken place at Fratton Park since their last visit in 2020, with their £11 million investment in the North and South Stands and the imminent work to the Milton End.
Michael will also make a visit to the training ground, which was purchased in summer 2021 as part of the owners’ further significant investment into infrastructure to propel the club forward over the long-term. The site includes the newly rebranded Pompey Health and Fitness Club, which has enjoyed a major refurbishment to the swimming pool, spa, gym and changing room areas. We will shortly be relaunching the club to attract new members and hope many season ticket holders will consider taking up an opportunity to work out and maintain their own personal fitness at a venue used by our players, as well as the first team and academy staff.
Elsewhere, we will allocate time to discuss strategy across a number of different projects, meeting a number of key stakeholders, as well as holding, in person, a meeting of the club’s Heritage and Advisory Board. It will be a busy, but informative and productive, five days which continue the focus of the board and club’s senior executive towards collectively shaping the future direction of Portsmouth Football Club.
Saturday’s first league meeting with Forest Green Rovers delivered a welcome three points after the disappointment at Charlton Athletic in front of the Sky Sports cameras the previous Monday. Credit to the players and staff for a swift reaction and finding a way to win despite a difficult challenge, with key players lost to injury and suspension ahead of the trip to Gloucestershire.
Our popularity with broadcasters was further reinforced with the news that our home fixture with Derby County, originally scheduled for Saturday, November 19, has been brought forward a day by Sky Sports, with an 8pm kick-off on the Friday. Our match at Wycombe Wanderers has also been selected and consequently moved to Sunday, December 4, with a 12.30pm kick-off. The FA Cup draw also produced a TV pick, with our trip to Hereford of National League North to be broadcast on BBC2 with a 7.55pm kick-off on Friday, November 4.
Tonight’s game has been dedicated to champion the Rainbow Laces campaign, with the objective that football and sport should be open to all. We all have a duty to everybody, whatever their background, to feel welcome at Fratton Park. Our captain will wear a rainbow armband and we will display our commitment to passionately promote the cause, so everyone feels comfortable to participate and engage in sport without fear of being bullied, belittled or excluded.
This responsibility is especially resonant and even more important to us following a homophobic comment directed from the stand by a lone supporter to an opposition player at the last league fixture with Fleetwood. This led to a brief stoppage of the game and was followed by an official FA warning towards the club. We will not tolerate this and will sanction anyone engaged in such behaviour. Whatever our generation, we all have a responsibility to deliver a safe environment for those around us.
Please remember the confidential text line 07500 778844, where any supporter can report any instance of anti-social behaviour inside or immediately outside the stadium. We will be increasing awareness of this confidential text service, which has seen an increase in use this season. Please be assured that any use of this service will be treated with absolute discretion.
Finally, our fixture with Shrewsbury on Saturday has been dedicated as our annual Remembrance fixture. We will proudly honour and recognise all those who dedicated and sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom with both a two-minute silence and the laying of wreaths prior to kick-off.
We look forward to seeing you then and hope that you witness another exciting match under the Fratton Park floodlights tonight. Enjoy the game and PUP!