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Andrew Cullen's Cheltenham Programme Notes

Read the thoughts of the CEO

19 August 2023

Andrew Cullen
Photo: Joe Pepler/PinPep
Club News

Andrew Cullen's Cheltenham Programme Notes

Read the thoughts of the CEO

19 August 2023

Thank you all for attending this afternoon’s Sky Bet League One fixture and a warm welcome to our visitors from Cheltenham Town.

You all created a very special atmosphere here on Tuesday night – the non-stop vocal support and encouragement from all areas of the ground played a significant part in securing three points in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Everyone should be proud of their contribution and that collective togetherness demonstrated against Exeter will be critical to see the team through all the good and difficult moments that will naturally confront us over the course of a long campaign.

Congratulations as well to the England Lionesses, who continued the feel-good factor on Wednesday by winning a place in tomorrow’s World Cup final. They have again delivered excitement and yet more exposure for the women’s game, which is now recognised as the fastest growing sport in the world.

Last season we saw our own Pompey Women’s team enjoy an outstanding campaign, competing right to the very end for promotion to the second tier, outperforming everything that was expected of them. Pompey in the Community also saw an explosion of interest in their girls’ soccer programmes, with places selling out quicker than those for boys. They were rewarded for all their hard work this summer, when The FA granted PitC ‘Emerging Talent Centre’ status. This means talented young girls in Portsmouth from eight years upwards can benefit from increased coaching opportunities.

Continuing the theme, we were proud in May to announce that our ownership would be committing a significant investment to take the team semi-professional after the brilliant stewardship of Eric Coleborn and his team of volunteers for many years. This means we have been able to secure much of last season’s bright talent on contracts, as well as attracting new players from our competitors. The women’s club has been constituted as a separate company, which means there is no subsidy from the men’s club, with all the financial support coming directly and separately from Tornante.

At the start of our 125th year, we were determined to deliver an initiative with both a meaningful and lasting legacy – and what better way to do this by supporting the growth of our women’s team. It is something that we strongly believe will inspire a generation of women and young girls to play the game in and around Portsmouth for many years to come.

Tomorrow sees Pompey Women start their new season by hosting Cheltenham at Westleigh Park. Kick-off has been put back an hour until 3pm, to allow everyone to watch the World Cup final in the Westleigh pub before the game. Tickets can be purchased at the turnstiles and are priced just £8 for adults (£6 for men’s season ticket holders). Seniors and under-18s pay only £5 and £3 respectively, with a £1 discount for season ticket holders. It would be great to see many of you there as the team kick-off a bright new era and we wish our players every success, both on Sunday and throughout the campaign.

Last week, our chairman Michael Eisner gave a series of interviews updating supporters on a number of issues and future plans for the club. Among the matters that perhaps most caught the eye were the conversations that continue to be held with various parties regarding a new, and safer, footbridge from Fratton station. As I highlighted in my August Q&A video, a new bridge is not just needed for matchdays, but to satisfy the future ambitions of various stakeholders, who are all coming together to develop plans to regenerate the Fratton area, with new homes, more jobs and mixed commercial developments. But the most important aspect must be to improve the safety of pedestrians who currently have to navigate a narrow footpath along Goldsmith Avenue at all times of the day.

I was extremely concerned to receive emails from supporters regarding a post-match incident following our home game with Bristol Rovers. I was told of long queues to reach the closed-off platforms at the station that stretched back along the footbridge and on Goldsmith Avenue, with pedestrians queuing and pushed onto the main road. We received reports of distressed children and one supporter said he had feared that some young people could have been crushed, as so many came into conflict with traffic.

While we cannot do much to extend the platforms at the station, we can continue to lobby those responsible for safety at our rail stations to help understand how we might all come together to deliver a study to explore new potential routes away from Goldsmith Avenue and to guarantee better safety for everyone who uses Fratton station. A new bridge and route would also provide greater accessibility for those with mobility problems and for cyclists, which the current footbridge cannot deliver.

Our April travel survey, completed by nearly 4,000 supporters, indicated that 19 per cent of supporters use the train to attend matches at Fratton Park. However, 61 per cent said they would do so if there was a safer route to the stadium. If only 31 per cent did so, then this would deliver a cleaner city. It would reduce matchday CO2 emissions by 25 per cent across a single season – not to mention increased revenue opportunities for the train operators.

I would ask that any supporters who experience similar issues to those reported after the Bristol Rovers game to either write to me or email me at the club, so we can continue to do our very best to deliver a safer experience for everyone at Fratton station – whether or not they are matchday attendees.

Finally, we were sad to learn of the passing of Pompey fan Lawrence Churcher at the age of 102. He was one of the last surviving veterans of the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation and we are honoured to have representatives from Lawrence’s family with us today. We will hold a minute’s applause prior to kick-off, when we will also pay our respects to our former Pompey captain Brian Snowdon, who also sadly died a few days ago.

Thank you for your support this afternoon and we hope you will see another exciting performance. Enjoy the game and PUP!

Andrew Cullen
Chief Executive


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