Rovers’ AGM Review

May 2, 2008

THE Supporters Club will be working closely with the board on options for getting fans to Cheltenham.

Our chairman Jim Chappell said after the announcement last night that we will be playing at Whaddon Road for the next two seasons that “it was undoubtedly the most popular option of those available.

 “It did not come as a great surprise that we will be going to Cheltenham as we have already been looking at all the possibilities and options of getting people to Whaddon Road. It has not yet been decided if season tickets will be combined with travel arrangements. “We will be working in liaison with the board to come up with options as soon as possible.”

Cheltenham have confirmed that the park and ride scheme operated from the town’s race course will be available for Rovers’ home games.

Work will commence on demolishing the Memorial Stadium in August for an 18,000-all seater facility. Rovers’ chairman Ron Craig confirmed at the shareholders meeting on Monday night that talks had been held with Yeovil and Swindon over a ground share but Cheltenham was the preferred option. When someone from the floor asked if they had talked to Bristol City Mr Craig replied: “We had approached City on a number of occasions but had always been knocked back.”

Three companies with experience of building sports stadiums have been asked to tender for the project. Rovers’ director Nick Higgs said: “We are in a state of limbo at the moment, until we get the tenders in next month. Then we will be in a position to consider everything.”

In a statement the club said that: Cowlin’s would not be building the stadium because “it could not demonstrate the required level of experience in sports stadium construction and were therefore not invited to submit a tender

Mr Higgs said that 80 per cent of the project would be financed by the building of student accommodation for 546 people. “It will be a carefully balanced programme. It will be less expensive to clear the whole site and let them get on with it, we will get a better job and it will be done quicker. “We will be looking to get back here as soon as possible. May be with just three sides of the ground finished. “We will also need a good playing surface and cannot work on the new pitch until near the end of the development.”
Another director, Edward Ware, said: “We have offers from two bankers. It would have been much easier to have done this deal last year under the current financial climate. But the student accommodation is the jewel in our crown. “We believe the cost consultants estimates to be accurate. It is not our intention to saddle the club with a debt at the end of this development.”

Tony Watola, Rovers company secretary, said: “By moving to Cheltenham we expect to make a trading loss. We recognise this and have made contingencies. There will be some pain but there will be a new stadium at the end of it. We cannot stay in this stadium.”

Lennie Lawrence, director of football, said: “We can provide a better spectacle playing at Cheltenham. Hopefully playing on a decent pitch will attract people to come. Our dream is to be arriving in the championship as we get back to the new stadium.”

Lennie revealed that the side would be playing pre-season games in Sweden, also away to Weymouth and Torquay and he hope that “one or two prestige friendlies” would be played at the Memorial Stadium before it is demolished.

Rovers have also been given permission to play a pre-season friendly at Cheltenham.

One of the Supporters Club directors, David Brain, who was appointed during the year, and retired in accordance with company regulations, was re-elected at the shareholders meeting as was Edward Ware. Geoff Dunford, who retired by rotation was also re-elected.

The Supporters Club’s other representative on the board, Ken Masters, did not have to seek re-election this year.

As a shareholder in Bristol Rovers (1883) Limited (the owner of The Memorial Stadium and parent of Bristol Rovers Football Club Limited), The Supporters Club were entitled to vote on a number of resolutions that had been proposed by the board. There were five resolutions that concerned routine business such as agreeing the statutory report and accounts, the reappointment of the company auditors and the re-election of certain directors. The Supporters Club voted in favour of these resolutions.

In addition, there were a further two resolutions which, taken together, would authorise the Directors to issue shares and to do so without offering them to existing shareholders first. This however, is subject to the “ring-fencing” of a previously agreed block of shares available for purchase by the Supporters Club through the Share Scheme. The passing of these resolutions effectively allows BRFC (1883) Ltd to raise further capital if it needs to without having to resort to more expensive loans either from financial institutions or through preference shares. These two resolutions have also been proposed and passed at previous AGM’s and EGM’s of BRFC (1883) Ltd. The Executive Committee discussed these resolutions in advance of the meeting and was mindful that under its constitution it had a commitment to support the Share Scheme’s aspiration of a minimum 28% stake in BRFC (1883) Ltd. However, it also recognised that it had an arguably more important responsibility in supporting the football club and its parent. The same resolutions had been passed with significant majorities in past meetings and any vote against would be nothing more than a protest vote. Moreover, given the current financial climate, the view of the Executive Committee was that in order to enable BRFC (1883) Ltd to obtain funds at short notice should they be required for the regeneration project, the resolution should be passed. On this basis the Supporters Club voted in favour of both resolutions which were passed with large majorities.

As shareholders entered the meeting they were given a list of printed questions and answers.  Here are a few of them:

Question: Who’ll own the new stadium?
Answer: The stadium will be owned by the shareholders of Bristol Rovers (1883)

Question: Why has it taken so long to appoint a building contractor?
Answer: We had to obtain the revised planning approval first before the issuing of tenders.

Question: Why did it take over 12 months for the section 106 to be signed after we received planning permission?

Answer: We required signatures from owners of properties which were included in a Section 106 Planning Agreement. Two of these properties were owned by previous directors of Bristol Rovers. The club therefore had to purchase two properties for £400,000 (previously purchased for £300,000) and your club directors purchased ex-directors shares for £307,000 (previously purchased for £289,000) before agreement was reached for them to sign

Two other properties were also purchased by the club and we agreed to rent two further properties. Discussions also took place with a student accommodation provider, our bankers and the brewery, as all parties had to be satisfied before the S106 could be signed.

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