Portsmouth are one of several Football League clubs keen to keep ITV crews out of their ground, in spite of the proposed new deal. Steven Morgan reports
Money isn’t everything. The old cliche might sound even more trite than usual coming from a supporter of Portsmouth, a club propped up by a billionaire chairman. However, it does seem to carry a ring of truth in the Fratton Park boardroom at present, at least where ITV are concerned.
Whatever one makes of Portsmouth’s chairman, Milan Mandaric, one can’t fault his principles for threatening to ban ITV cameras if a new deal with the League is signed. “Portsmouth do not want any association with a company which has caused such damage to football,” he told the Portsmouth News. “We need to have a way to express our unhappiness, and this is the way to do it. I’m totally against any further involvement with them. How could we go back to a company that has already betrayed us?”
At least that’s what he is saying this week. One thing Pompey fans have learnt about Mandaric during his four-year reign is that he won’t back a loser for long. Alan Ball, Tony Pulis, Steve Claridge and Graham Rix have all been trumpeted as ideal candidates to spearhead the team’s bid for the Premiership, but none stayed around longer than a full season.
I hope he sees this one through, regardless of what his fellow chairmen decide. Similar gestures by clubs such as Burnley and Bury have already seen ITV reporters refused entry to do match summaries, so a certain amount of solidarity may not be out of the question. Not only would it be a symbolic gesture, for Portsmouth it would also be payback time. ITV’s networked coverage of Pompey, through its various incarnations, be it Meridian, TVS or Southern Television, has been truly shambolic over the years.
One particular incident still sticks in the craw. On the final day of the 1995-96 season, Pompey had to win to retain First Division status (nothing new there) at Huddersfield, and hope Millwall would claim the third relegation slot by failing to beat Ipswich. Those of us who couldn’t face the misery of the 200-mile journey home should we lose imagined we would get to see a game of that enormity live. With that much at stake, surely it was a certainty?
Oh no, in their infinite stinginess, Meridian refused to stump up the cash to take pictures from Yorkshire TV, where the game was shown live. They plumped instead for LWT’s coverage of the Millwall match, before skipping off to Yorkshire for a nailbiting last five minutes. We are far from alone in holding that kind of grudge. Sheffield Wednesday’s War of the Monster Trucks fanzine was so named following their fans’ chagrin at Leeds-based YTV’s decision to screen four-wheel drive madness instead of highlights of Wednesday’s Coca-Cola Cup final victory over Manchester United in 1991.
With a track record like this, most Pompey supporters – and I’m sure our experiences aren’t isolated – would suggest ITV deserve all the opprobrium they get. To wheedle their way in through the back door having let clubs down so badly, would be akin to robbing a pensioner of their savings one week and returning to give them a fiver the next. Mandaric’s decision may be easier given his financial clout, but it’s one I would wholeheartedly support. It will also make for some interesting boardroom exchanges with Pompey director Fred Dinenage. The former How? presenter anchors Meridian’s evening news programme.
From WSC 188 October 2002. What was happening this month