Time To Pull Together

September 27, 2005

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It has been a tough few weeks for our football club. One thing that has really concerned me has been the posts on the Fans Forum about supporters, many of which have supported the club for many years, no longer attending matches. Of course that is the right of any supporter to do if they are unhappy with the performance of the team, manager or board. But it also says another thing to me – those supporters still feel strongly enough about the club to spend time posting on a forum, but they are frustrated because Rovers to them only means the match on a Saturday or Tuesday. We haven’t given them a real strength of feeling about Bristol Rovers that means they will hold on to the club through anything – we haven’t shown them our vision and values and identified areas in which we can all help the club.

Maybe it was easier at Twerton, where both the vision of getting back to Bristol and the values we had of conquering adversity at every turn were simple for all of us to understand and get behind. The sight of 9,000 crammed into Twerton Park, corporate hospitality consisting of watching Greasy Joe’s burgers being run along the touchline, oh and the stand fire (again!) was a rallying call to Rovers fans to get behind the team and support it. Now although we have been through a torrid five years of watching football as a Gashead, we have the Memorial Stadium, our place in Bristol and therefore the focus of everything is on that performance out there on the pitch. But are we really back in Bristol, are we a vibrant active part of the North Bristol community, or have we lost a generation of supporters through our exile in Bath?

Maybe it is time to understand what we are trying to achieve as a football club, the role all of us play in achieving that goal and how we can support the club in many areas, not just by watching first team football at the Mem. Like other businesses Rovers need a challenging yet credible vision that brings all of us together to instil direction and purpose to the operation of the club. Otherwise we can get into the situation we have for the past few years – pressure on the manager from the fans after a series of poor performances and a reactive way of the Board responding to that pressure. The vision does not have to be pie-in-the sky aspirations, but a realistic goal to set all “stakeholders” – manager, players, off field staff, Board and supporters – to build towards.

This has been summarised in a working document Vision and Values that was developed for the Football Club, which I summarise here:

The Vision:
To provide top quality professional football, in a supporter and community based club.

Our Values:
Our sense of history in our club and its position as part of North Bristol since 1883
Our wish to play an active and the valuable role in the local community and region.
Our commitment to our staff and supporters to listen to their concerns and ideas and actively involve them in the future direction of the club
Our responsibility to help the children of Bristol and the region develop their interest in watching and playing football

The idea of this is to say even when times are bad, there are things we can rally around as Rovers supporters – the progress of the Centre of Excellence and the Youth team, how we can support the Gas Girls to help get them sponsorship, supplementing the work the Community Department do with supporters initiatives to really get Rovers integrated with the North Bristol support base it lost for 10 long years.

After four tough days last week, two things brightened the end of my week beside the football. There was the Freshers Fair at UWE on Friday where we signed up loads of students to watch Rovers as new supporters. The second was a meeting on Saturday that linked the Supporters Club and Gas Trust looking at how we could work together on supporters supplementing the work in the Education and Football in the Community Departments. These are only beginnings but show that we can rebuild that Rovers spirit with a new generation of supporters.

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