Following my Q&A session with friend and Portsmouth FC Security team member Liam Earley, I was fortunate to be able to have a Q&A session with CEO of the Year and Portsmouth CEO Mark Catlin. This is how it went.
1) You grew up supporting West Ham, who were your idols at West Ham and did you ever dream of playing for the Hammers yourself?
Trevor Brooking was and still is my greatest football idol. Alan Devonshire followed and he was also a great player. I think every lad dreams of playing for their ‘home town’ club, but I realised pretty early on in life that whilst I had a lot of enthusiasm, I wasn’t good enough to make it as a professional footballer!
2) Before becoming CEO of Portsmouth, you were Commercial Director at Bury FC, how did that come about and what was your best moment?
I was contacted by Bury FC following a successful spell running a Spanish football club. At the time they were struggling financially in L2 and I came in following a Sky Sports documentary showing how well the club I was running in Spain was doing. We (the Board) subsequently managed to clear all debt and turn Bury FC into profit. My best moment was then achieving promotion, that was a great day!
3) You had to resign from Bury FC, how hard was that to do and did you wish things could have been different?
I didn’t ‘have’ to resign from Bury FC and everyone at the club tried to get me to change my mind, I just felt the journey had gone as far as it could and at the time my own businesses were missing my involvement. Over the following months that changed and I decided to look for another football challenge which came in the guise of working with supporters in trying to save PFC from liquidation.
4)When Portsmouth had its financial troubles, from a football fans point of view, I was disappointed at the possibility of a club going under, how did you feel?
As an outsider at the time exactly the same, hence why I offered my services voluntarily to try and save the club from extinction!
5)A club will never die all the whilst it has its fans and with the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, how proud are you at the clubs situation
Extremely proud as its the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of passionate, honest and extremely loyal supporters.
6) Portsmouth currently lay in fourth, do you feel the club are in a better place to finish in a promotion challenging position.
I think we are in a great position and despite some inconsistent results will once again be challenging for promotion this season.
7) Taking it back to your boyhood club briefly, West Ham took up residence at the Olympic Stadium, did you ever think that it was the right decision given the problems with segregation?
Tough one to answer, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I always thought that moving to a stadium that was not a dedicated football one, was always going to cause issues.
8) The EFL trophy, now from the very start when they expanded it, very few fans thought it was a good idea, shown by the low attendances, do you think the Football League will come to their senses and revert back to how it should be.
I hope so, this was always ‘sold’ to clubs as being a trial and its clearly not worked. The big debate will be do we carry on with the competition full stop!
9) Portsmouth and eleven other clubs were fined for not fielding full strength teams in the competition. Do you think that these will be overturned and would any of the clubs threaten to boycott the competition next season.
You cannot boycott any competitions as an EFL club member, but you can field a team you wish and that was the decision taken by us as a club, even though we were fully aware of the penalties we would face. I do not believe that our fines will be overturned.
10) You recently won CEO at the Football Business Awards, you dedicated it to everyone at the club, it must have been a proud moment having seen the club rise from where it was. What plans do you have for the club in the coming future?
It was a hugely proud moment for me to collect the award on behalf of the club, and it says a lot about how far we have come, however we have to now look to the future and that will involve taking some tough decisions on future investment and the direction we wish to go. What league we see ourselves in will set the bar as to the investment we will need and what that may or may not do to our ownership structure. The higher we set the bar the more money it will take!
An interesting insight into the CEO of Portsmouth covering his boyhood times all the way to winning the CEO award and thoughts on the EFL trophy debacle.