The training ground legacy created by Pompey fans

Pompey Academy began trialling the new training ground on Thursday. Picture: Paul Jacobs (142967-6)
Pompey Academy began trialling the new training ground on Thursday. Picture: Paul Jacobs (142967-6)

Pompey’s youngsters limbered up, the guinea pigs let loose on a new field.

The Blues’ new training ground is being trialled. On Thursday Mark Kelly’s Academy were charged with dipping their collective toes in the water to report on its temperature.

After all, Andy Awford is adamant he doesn’t want his first-team moving into their new £1.1m home until the diggers and workmen have departed.

In the meantime, the Academy are now largely based at the Copnor Road venue, even if the wait for the keys to their own exclusive domain is a little longer.

Work on the rejuvenation of two nearby pitches earmarked to stage under-16 and under-18 fixtures is set to start in March next year.

That phase three development at the Roko site has been funded entirely by 5,494 football supporters raising a remarkable £270,000.

It’s a magnificent contribution over the duration of the ambitious 62-day scheme launched this summer.

Similarly, fledgling company Tifosy share immense pride for their part in the fan-funding blueprint which has subsequently attracted interest from Champions League clubs and those a little closer to home.

Project manager and Chelsea fan Maher Ahmadieh led a team of five for the initiative which has proven to be pioneering within football.

And this week those youngsters who will benefit were provided with a tantalising glimpse of the legacy created by generous fans.

Ahmadieh said: ‘This is the beginning of crowd funding in world football.

‘The concept is new but I think it is the answer for clubs who want to start improving facilities and infrastructure.

‘We believed that if it wouldn’t work at Pompey it was not going to work anywhere. It was always Pompey or bust.

‘It is a decent-sized club with a big fanbase and should definitely be able to engage properly with supporters, so you put your expectations high.

‘If we had raised £150,000 or £200,000 that could not have been seen as a failure. I would say £50,000 would have been a failure – but the fans raised £270,000.

‘Without those supporters we would not have been able to do anything and the main drive of Tifosy has come from that Pompey achievement.

‘We have lined up campaigns with a couple of other Football League clubs but have not finalised the details yet.

‘One is a League Two club and the other is a League One club, both are non-academy related, instead focused on facilities as different clubs have different needs, and we are looking at raising £50,000 or £100,000 for each.

‘The target figure depends on the size of the club.

‘We won’t be doing anything of the size of the Portsmouth campaign, you can raise only so much depending on your fanbase.

‘We’ve also had two major European clubs in the Champions League – in Italy and Belgium – contact us about implementing it.

‘Clubs have seen there is a project to engage with the fans and it is a win, win. There is no risk involved.’

The scheme was launched on June 10 at Fratton Park with Gianluca Vialli present.

And during the opening 48 hours around £17,000 came in.

Over the duration, three-year-old Axel Herkes from Denvilles gave £10.80 in 5p pieces to a collection bucket.

Jack Whatmough, ex-Blues players John Sullivan and Jamie Ashdown and World Cup winner Paolo Rossi also donated, as did followers from Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United, Spurs, Wolves and Walsall.

In addition, contributions arrived from Pompey fans residing in more than 30 different countries, including Australia, Brazil, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Holland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Singapore, Caicos Islands, Switzerland and Finland.

Yet with £50,000 required over the remaining five days, it appeared the £250,000 target would not be reached during the specified time frame.

Colin Farmery, who led the project on behalf of the club, said: ‘While we all believed it would be a success at Pompey, the way the project developed outstripped everyone’s expectations.

‘Tifosy approached us in December with their idea and Mark Catlin gave it over to me to see if we could make it work. We were the guinea pigs.

‘Ultimately the way the project worked fitted the model in the sense of a big spike in the beginning, followed by a plateau and a big spike at the end.

‘What we managed to do was keep the campaign on little spikes throughout, then five days before the start of the season the club sent mail out with a letter from Andy Awford thanking fans for their support and reminding them to donate to Tifosy.

‘From the Tuesday through to the Saturday, when the campaign was due to close, we didn’t need to do any work – it ran itself!’

A staggering £52,000 was raised in what proved to be the final three days of the project, £24,000 coming on the Friday alone.

The final surge saw £11,000 collected in the last five hours and even after the target was reached an extra £7,500 was taken by the end of Saturday.

With Tifosy allowing another week for the project to wind down, by August 15 the final total was £270,000.

Ahmadieh added: ‘From a marketing perspective, Andy (Awford) and Twitter were extremely important.

‘Twitter was a daily engagement with the fans, we wanted to make sure we kept reminding everyone that this campaign exists.

‘Andy was a uniting character for Portsmouth fans and that helped a lot, we didn’t want anyone pulling them left and right.

‘The club were also very proactive and helped us come up with ideas.

‘Two months is a long time and at some point they suggested auctioning spot prizes and vintage items.

‘It was a fantastic success.’

And there is a training ground to show for it.