Pompey eyeing Fratton capacity boost

Mark Catlin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Mark Catlin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey are eyeing restoring Fratton Park to a 20,000-plus capacity.

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is closing in on delivering its verdict on the Blues’ stadium.

Fratton Park was reduced to 18,204 in the summer of 2013 following a safety inspection by Portsmouth City Council.

Now, following essential work carried out during the close season, the club is optimistic it can earn a safety certificate taking it closer to its previous 21,178 capacity.

The matter has been referred by the council to ground safety experts SGSA.

And Mark Catlin believes the decision could be made in the next week, potentially before Saturday.

The Blues’ chief executive said: ‘The council’s safety advisory group have moved it on for a final decision to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.

‘With the greatest of respect to people within the council, they are not specialists in stadium safety. So we have got the experts looking at it now.

‘We are confident of getting the capacity back up and a decision on that is due in the next week or so.

‘I am hoping by the end of this week.

‘Ideally we would like mid-19,000 but I think we have a really, really good case for it to go back above 20,000.

‘So we have gone for a reinstatement of the capacity above 20,000. Whether we will get that we will see.

‘We initially brought in experts to compile a report on what was needed to be done (to Fratton Park) and we carried out a lot of the work asked that we feasibly could.

‘With the sprinkler system introduced and changes in evacuation, we have demonstrated we can get people out within a certain time.

‘There are still issues with some steps in the Milton end but we have looked at ways to mitigate that as regards an evacuation should it ever happen.

‘There have also been reprofiling of the exits, basically clearing seats from some gangways.

‘Now it has been referred to a higher body for their insight into whether they think what we have put forward is feasible.

‘I am really pleased with it. I am pleased with the support of the council in helping us and now the specialists in this area are having a look and will give a definitive answer.’

Pompey’s average home attendance last term was 15,460. The largest attendances were Oxford (18,181), Plymouth (18,026) and Bristol Rovers (17,998).

In August, 16,671 watched them beat Cambridge 2-1.

Meanwhile, discussions are progressing on improving Fratton’s disabled facilities.

Catlin added: ‘We had Level Playing Field come in for an audit report of the stadium.

‘We are currently going through that in association with the DSA, our own Disabled Supporters Association, to see what is feasible and what is not.’