September 21, 2008
Directors Report 2007-2008
The new decade had seen a low period in the fortunes of the football club. The appointment of Lennie Lawrence as Director of Football and Paul Trollope as First Team Coach had brought about renewed optimism. This was realised with a JPT final appearance followed up promotion to League 1. The view in the Boardroom and in the Supporters Club Executive was clear. The success marked just the beginning of what could be achieved and that there was much work to do in order to maintain the momentum for further progress.
The Board took note of the advice given by Lennie Lawrence. Lennie is a manager with considerable experience in the professional game and he told us that in football you are either going forward or going backwards; you do not stand still. The Board of the football club are ambitious and are collectively determined to take Bristol Rovers forward. The overriding aim of Championship Football in a Championship Stadium is realistic and achievable given the history of the football club, the large fan base and the attendances that we know, from recent experience, can be attracted to bigger games.
The under pinning methodology on the playing side has been made clear over the course of the year. The purpose has been to keep our better players and to strengthen the first team squad by signing quality players in certain positions from other clubs. The main priority was players in forward positions. This purpose has been well demonstrated over the summer and early weeks of the new season. Opportunities for younger players have also been extended as can be seen by the numbers progressing from the under 18 side. To this end the management team have enjoyed the backing of the Board and the support of the Executive Committee. A sense of direction, unity and purpose prevails at this time.
One key ingredient to attracting quality players and improving the day to day working environment of the players and staff is the physical resources and geographical location of the training ground. Acquisition of the new training facilities at West Town Lane has been achieved following many months of negotiation and endeavour. The facilities are top Championship quality at the very least and serve to further demonstrate the ambitions of the Board and direction in which the football is being taken.
A regenerated Memorial Stadium site is seen by the Board and the Executive as absolutely necessary if the football club is to achieve its overriding aim and to sustain its status as a second tier club. Delays to construction are met with more pessimism that optimism and that is entirely understandable. Notwithstanding the difficulties and disappointment experienced in the spring, good progress is still being made. The Chairman of the football club is leading the project. The reports of his continuing hard work to board members indicate very strongly that the end result will be achieved.
Work at the Bristol Rovers Study Centre continues to strengthen the position of the club as a leading contributor to Playing for Success in Bristol and in the West Region. The level of activity at the centre has grown at a pace and in the order of 500 children will benefit in the current year. The amount of summer challenge activity during the school holidays increased threefold. The challenges were again set by Paul Trollope. A good number of players attended the celebration evenings after each of the sessions throughout the school year. The Trust that has been set up for the eighteen West and South West member centres is progressing well and doing good work throughout the region. A good number of collaborative and link activities are taking place. I am pleased to represent Bristol Rovers as a member of the Trust and to lead the work of the Trust as chairman of its Board of Directors.
Football in the Community has seen a good deal of change over the past year resulting from changes to funding and administration at The Football League. Community coaches are now on the Bristol Rovers payroll and the operation is supported by a regional director. The appointed director to advise and support clubs in the West and Wales is John Relish. John is an experienced football person and is currently manager at Bath City. New initiatives have seen first team players coaching along community coaches in local schools. Schools are also being offered participation in a Junior Sports Leaders programme. We are presently waiting the outcome of a strong bid to The Football League for funding to work outside of schools and directly in the local community.
I am presently working to widen the geographical scope of the Supporters Club. The very good work to set up, maintain and develop the branch at Weston Super Mare has been used as the good example in setting up other branches in the areas around Bristol and across the country. The experience of Weston Gas shows us that as well as keen and hard working members, a social base to meet and promote functions is paramount. A branch in NE Somerset has now been formed thanks to the work of three members who live in that area. The Crown at Clapton near Midsomer Norton has very kindly agreed to welcome members and to be known as our base there in a similar way as the Windsor Castle in Weston. The next gathering of Norton Radstock Gas will be held there on Thursday 9th October at 8pm.
The formation of a Scottish Branch based in Edinburgh is also in hand. Membership cards with an allocation of membership numbers has been passed to Scottish Gas to enable them to operate locally. Interest is being shown in Gloucestershire and West Wiltshire as well as in the East Midlands. There are opportunities in all parts locally and nationally should my plea for members, or potential members, to come forward to work to set up the local branches. Help and support is guaranteed and I pledge to stay close to the new branches at all times.
The football club has admitted that there is room for improvement in communications and public relations. As far as the Supporters Club contribution is concerned we now have a very good web site manager. The results of this are apparent to those who regularly visit the site. We are currently engaged to improve further by the installation of an interactive question and answer section. Communications were improved by the holding of forum meetings during the period between pre season and the first league game of the new season. Six meetings covered Bristol, West and NE Somerset, Gloucestershire and West Wiltshire; thanks to Paul, Lennie and Board Directors for attending. Thank you also to those who came forward to make the forums a success.