Chairman’s Annual Report
January 1, 2000
I suppose it is more or less inevitable that the fortunes of any supporters club will be dependent on the success or failure of the team it supports and this is certainly the case with Bristol Rovers as we run all the commercial activities on behalf of our ‘parent’. It follows then that season 2006/7 was always going to be a hard act to repeat with cup finals in two national stadiums and consequent promotion to League 1. The team struggled to make an impression on a terrible pitch at home but fortunately fared much better on its travels and therefore was able to maintain its higher status without too much discomfort, albeit undoubtedly helped by swingeing points penalties awarded to both Luton Town and AFC Bournemouth. On the plus side a tremendous F.A. Cup run, equalling Rovers’ best-ever, brought the club massive publicity and revenue that made up for a disappointing home League campaign and this has all been reflected in the Supporters Club’s accounts. In brief it was a reasonable year of consolidation at a higher level that now begs to be built on and the early signs this season are that this will be achieved with further good management both on and off the pitch!
Much of the latter half of last season was spent in preparation for the planned evacuation to Cheltenham so that rebuilding work could commence following demolition of the Memorial Stadium. Contrary to what many cynics would have you believe it came as a big shock to your Executive Committee when it was announced via a simple press release that the redevelopment scheme had been postponed. At all our previous meetings with the Board of Directors we had been assured that the scheme was proceeding to plan but, and this has to be said, always with the rider that it was a very complex business and therefore subject to everything coming together at the same time. Unfortunately the scheme fell at the last hurdle with our first real taste of what has now become universally known as the ‘credit crunch’. What made the announcement much worse was the Football Club’s failure to put forward someone in authority for media interviews in order to explain what had gone wrong. This was compounded a short while after when the Reserve team was withdrawn from the South West Combination League with a similarly terse press release and again nobody up for interview. We were quickly in contact with then Chairman Ron Craig to complain how badly this lack of explanation was going down with our members and all Rovers’ supporters in general. I’m pleased to say that Ron and his Board reacted both quickly and positively to our comments and subsequently fully supported a round of fans’ forums that were hastily arranged by Supporters Director and BRSC Vice Chairman Ken Masters. We had promised more of this sort of get-together at last year’s AGM and I suppose the good thing about the two aforementioned issues was that they focussed our minds to get them underway. My sincere thanks to Ken, all the Directors including Lennie Lawrence and First Team Coach Paul Trollope who took the time and trouble to attend and answer some quite difficult questions without pulling any punches. Likewise my thanks go to all the host clubs, including our own Weston-Super-Mare Branch, for their great hospitality and everyone who took time out to take part. There will of course be another Q&A session with Football Club Directors and team management immediately after the AGM and we intend to hold another forum in the new year in the Yate/Mangotsfield area. A welcome outcome from the round of meetings is the possibility of forming further branches of the club in the areas visited. Ken has been progressing this and he has received help again from the W-S-M Committee whose organisation is a benchmark for any fledgling branch. I hope that you will support this venture if you are a Rovers fan living outside the city.
Ron Craig has of course recently stood down from the Chairmanship of the Football Club but remains on the Board of Directors. I would like to place on record my thanks for his sterling work with the club to date and hope that it continues for many years to come. Taking Ron’s place is Nick Higgs, now apparently free from his business and able to commit fully to the redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium. Nick has always kept your Executive Committee well briefed on developments with this vital project at our quarterly meetings with the Board and it was most unfortunate that a leak from outside of the club caused the postponement back in May. We are now informed that the project is back on track for work to start at the end of this season and I long for the day when all the contracts are signed. I’m sure that every true Rovers supporter will join me in that thought and in wishing Nick and the Board every hope that pens are put to paper by next May. To the critics and doubters I say just remember where our beloved football club was when celebrating its centenary just 25 years ago – paying a crippling rent in a decaying old stadium whose owners clearly wanted us out in order to sell for development. Bristol Rovers controls its own destiny today thanks mainly to the efforts of the majority still serving on the Board of Directors and I offer them my continuing full support!
I must thank all the Executive Committee for their efforts over the past season – the first year that I have been able to contribute fully myself since retiring from my ’24/7′ job. There has been much progress behind the scenes with our accounts system, despite the ‘hinderence’ of promotion and a major cup run. This is mainly due to the efforts of Clive Farquhar and Jane Browne, supported of course by our hard-working shop staff at Kingswood and in Pirate Leisure. Likewise our Communications sub-committee, led by Dennis Payter, has made continual improvements to the website and to how we present our news in general. This, like the accounts system, is still on-going but I hope that you will appreciate the work being put in. The Share Scheme is due to end in December and Dave Brain’s sub-committee has been working on a replacement. However, I can inform members that we might yet be able to continue the scheme in some form or another and we are currently in discussion with the Football Club as to how this can be done. We will inform everyone of the outcome in due course. Meantime, my sincere thanks again to David, the Share Scheme Committee and everyone who continues to contribute to something which undoubtedly saved Rovers from dropping out of the Football League just a few dark years ago! We on the Executive are always extremely grateful to all the army of individual volunteers who help us day in and day out in both of our shops and of course at the stadium on match days. You people are truly the lifeblood of this great club and I hope you’ll be helping an even greater one in the years to come. My sincere thanks to all of you!
I would ask every one of you to make sure that you renew your membership forthwith if you haven’t already done so and of course to continue supporting the team home and away. As I said at the start, we are dependent on the team’s performance just as they in turn are dependent on support from the stands and terraces in order to climb the league table. We are all in this together and I thank everyone for your efforts!