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The university is the main summer firm of Pompeyo

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When a brusque tycoon the American media says: "Leave everything else and do that", they do not usually talk about a university sponsorship deal.

But former Disney boss Michael Eisner, now owner of Portsmouth Football Club is a fervent supporter of an association that will see the University of Portsmouth logo revealed on the team's jersey later this month.

Corporate sponsors are usually airlines, online gambling websites, banks or financial services firms.

But Portsmouth, a big club that has faced difficult times in recent years, is enrolling in a university.

And it's not about money, the club could have got much more elsewhere.

'Emotional connection'

Mr. Eisner, speaking from New York, says he has "nothing" against commercial sponsorship, "but as soon as the university was suggested, he wanted to work with them" at almost any price. "

The soccer club has a strong" emotional connection "with the people of the city he says, and wants to use that influence to improve levels of education.

"Instinctively it felt good," says Mr. Eisner.

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Michael Eisner says ownership means investing in the long-term health of the club and the city

Actually, it's not what you expect to hear from billionaires owning football players abroad, but he wants his club to help improve the number of Portsmouth youth going to university.

The south -coast city has one of the lowest college entrance rates in England.

The prosperity of the city and the attraction of investments and better jobs will depend on the improvement of the levels of education, and the owner of Pompey considers it part of the civic duties of the club. support this.

"The club is so intertwined with the life of the city, more than most clubs, the health of the city is the health of the club," he says.

Putting university within reach

Mr. Eisner says that the university initially doubted about the association.

But Deputy Chancellor Graham Galbraith says Eisner "was not the traditional owner of his football club," and the agreement offered a unique opportunity to connect with communities that other access schemes would never reach.

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The club wants young supporters to see that the university is within reach

White working-class kids are the least likely to go to college, but Professor Galbraith says these are "the backbone of club support."

"We are working with schools, but the truth is that, whatever we do, we do not pass on the message to these communities in Portsmouth," says Professor Galbraith.

But now all the young people kick a ball with a Pompey shirt going to bear the name of the university.

"It's important to show that universities are within reach, we have to go where these children are," says Professor Galbraith. And he says that bringing players to the university's open house and outreach events is going to have a big impact.

He wants to connect with families "who do not consider education important, people who think that education is not needed."

The university does not reveal how much the three-year agreement is worth, but Professor Galbraith believes it is likely to be unique.

If the club is once again promoted to success, he believes that the financial temptation for a large sponsor of commercial shirts could be too much, so it is a case now or never.

Portsmouth's low level of university participation does not correspond to the south of England, and Professor Galbraith describes it as "a northern city located on the south coast".

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The clubhouse in Fratton Park is an old-fashioned stadium in the middle of the city

The football club has authenticity and credibility for the fans of Pompey, and Prof. Galbraith wants the young people to see the university as part of the team they support.

Mary Curnock Cook, former director of the Ucas admissions service, has highlighted the social gap in the applications and particularly how it affects children.

"It's the white working-class kids who are the most backward, they are the group least likely to go to college – 54% fewer children than girls from low-income families filed their application through Ucas in March of this year," says Curnock Cook.

She supports the idea of ​​using football, and Northampton Town also has a sponsorship agreement with her local university.

"Helping young people see that football and education work powerfully together should be a good thing," he says.

Expanding the appeal

The club has its own interests in the link wi the university

Mr. Eisner says that there will be a "synergy" with the department of sport sciences of the university, that could help with team training.

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Will soccer fans look like potential students?

You also want to cultivate the type of family relationship in the United States, where many universities t They have their own most important sports teams.

"As a student I remember leaving there and then waiting for the great game of the weekend," he says.

There will be discounted tickets for college students, which could expand the demographics of club support.

That also means an improvement to the facilities at Fratton Park, the aging club grounds.

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The university wants young people from the city to enter through its doors, as well as Fratton Park

It is a classic, atmospheric, past stage of fashion, with the shape of a bear, embedded in streets with a terrace.

"Buckingham Palace is not modern, but you do not say, 'Knock it down,'" says Eisner.

But he says the traditional intensity of support should not prevent an "atmosphere that is safe and fun."

The club's address was sent by Mr. Eisner to Disney University for more information on caring for clients.

Tale of two cities

If the image of football is often associated with narcissism and conspicuous wealth, Eisner says he wants a more responsible approach.

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Michael Eisner and Graham Galbraith have agreed to a three-year sponsorship agreement, with the shirt appearing later this month

Promises a " a coherent, intelligent and long-term strategy ", building the infrastructure and professionalism of the club, which a few years ago was almost facing financial extinction.

This means supporting the welfare of the city, with the university association designed to create a bridge between neighboring institutions that can help each other to expand their attractiveness.

Portsmouth Football Club and the University of Portsmouth share the same crowded urban sprawl, but the people passing through their doors are worlds apart.

To borrow a title from another son of Portsmouth, Charles Dickens, is a story of two cities.

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