Thanks John…

September 7, 2006

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First, with apologies to E J Thribb, a short poem:

“So farewell, then, John Malyckyj.
You were chairman of
Bristol Rovers Supporters
Club
But not
Anymore.”

I am not often rocked to my foundations, as the old saying sort of goes, but today was an exception.

My foundations were rocked by the resignation of John Malyckyj from the position of chair of Bristol Rovers Supporters Club.
I suppose there is one good thing to come out of his resignation. I will have less problems with my computer’s spell check, but that’s the only good thing.

I got to know John Malyckyj in the 1980s at a time when we were both involved in a local trade union. During a national strike, I went on a speaking tour (I couldn’t shut in those days either) and one port of call was Tollgate House where John worked.
I made the usual highly political, tub-thumping and ultimately ineffective speech and then John got up and made a quiet, well-thought out, non political and wholly effective speech. He used things like facts which rather got in the way of what I was trying to argue for. He became very good at using facts in the years to come.

By the 1990s, I got to know him at Bristol Rovers matches when we were exiled in Bath. I had seen him before, of course, but our paths rarely crossed apart from through the union. John, by now, was active in Bristol Rovers Supporters Club (BRSC); attending meetings, selling fundraising tickets and programme and involving himself in the committee.

I had always marvelled at the little army of volunteers who helped the club. And they seemed to do so much.

I discovered that not only do jobs like flogging programmes they controlled the entire commercial arm of the football club, thus saving the football club vast sums of money that could be spent elsewhere. In fact, the turnover of BRSC was over £1 million per annum.

John the committee member was at the forefront of every meaningful campaign the football club was ever involved in. He was far more than a mere foot soldier in the fight to get Bristol Rovers back to Bristol, he was always involved in the planning applications, he was involved in the Share Scheme, he still sold tickets and programmes.

To many people, and this is no disrespect to the other committee members and officers, John Malyckyj was the face of BRSC. (I am not going to add something childish like it’s a wonder they didn’t go bust then!)

John did become chair a couple of years ago following the implementation of a modernisation plan he had led with fellow committee member Phil Draper.

It all looked good.

New faces joined the committee, the Share Scheme was thriving and delivering shares for BRSC and vital funds for the football club.

Everyone, it seemed, was happy.

Then came the summer of 2006.

At the heart of the summer of 2006 at the Rovers was an horrendous boardroom split which subsequently led to splits among the supporters.

Everything that was going on off the pitch eclipsed what was happening on it but during all that time John Malyckyj, ever the pragmatist, tried to do what he felt was best for Bristol Rovers.

As you can see from his resignation letter, he now feels he has done as much as he can do.

It’s not tragic.

Tragedy is the Tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, the untimely death of a loved one; not what happens at a football club.

I saw at first hand what John Malyckyj did for BRSC.

I know the hours he put in, as well as all the exhausting emotional commitment, and at the same time he had to do a full time job and raise a family.

I got tired watching him.

I have got to know John Malyckyj well over the years and I am proud to call him a friend.

It feels like I am writing an obituary tonight but really I am just mourning the departure of one of the finest Rovers supporters of them all, forced to resign on matters of principle, something that has become an anathema in BS7 these days.

Sleep well, John.

Then, wake up and do something else with your life.

Thanks for everything.

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