Chairman’s Report 2012

September 22, 2012




The last year has been a difficult one for the Supporters Club with Rovers unable to make an immediate return to League 1 despite great anticipation following the appointment of Paul Buckle as Manager. As the team failed to capitalise on an exciting live-televised opening day win at newly promoted Wimbledon Buckle was eventually replaced by the vastly experienced Mark McGhee and results immediately improved with a final ten-match unbeaten home run raising fan’s expectations again for the start of the current campaign. Unfortunately the team is still to get off the mark at the time of writing, (end of August), and most supporters anticipate a long hard battle ahead as Rovers try to regain their former status. This disappointment surrounding the team’s performances had had a major effect on the Supporters Club’s income with ticket and merchandising sales suffering accordingly.

Unfortunately the likes of Aldershot, Accrington, Morecambe and Fleetwood do not hold the same fascination in these hardened times as did Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and Southampton in the recent past and it is galling for proud ‘Pirates’ to be left so far behind the likes of  Crawley, Stevenage and near-neighbours Yeovil!

It is early days in the new season and I’m sure that we have the right man at the helm to take the club back up the League and the recent approval of planning permission for Rovers’ new 21,000 all-seater stadium at UWE has given everyone connected with the club a real boost. We all eagerly await similar approval for Sainsbury’s redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium from Bristol City Council in the coming months in order to fund the new ground and my thanks go to all of you who have written and spoken in support of the two schemes.

Football Club Chairman Nick Higgs has shown us the plans for a massive Supporters Club bar that will be situated behind one of the goals in the UWE Stadium and the EC have already committed money from the original 50/50 Draw funds towards the extremely high planning costs </span>for the new development. The 50/50 Draw has been an outstanding
success since we introduced it on our return to Bristol and our band of loyal volunteer sellers ensure that it is, per head through the turnstiles, one of the very best in the entire League. The Draw’s current purpose is of course to fund the Rovers’ youth scheme and again we have provided money over the last year to enable our club to compete with the very best. Rovers Youths should really have won the South West Alliance last season but got caught at the very end and finished runners-up. Nevertheless, the purpose of the Youth team is to provide players for the first team and no less than five of the lads have been signed on full professional terms for this season. I can tell you that we have another string of fine young players competing this time round and a Rovers team, mainly comprising of locally reared players, is again a possibility in the near future. Please keep buying the tickets!

The Share Scheme also continues to provide vital funds towards the running of the parent club and the Committee is looking to continue running something similar when we finally leave the Memorial Stadium. Once the final planning permission has been given to enable Rovers’ move to UWE to go ahead we can then proceed with our plans for
a replacement scheme. The Gold Bond Draw is also still active, providing profits for the club and some nice winnings for participants. We would like to develop this further so please contact Berni Clothier at ‘199’ for details. My thanks go to everyone who contributes towards these money-raising schemes. The Committee is fully aware how difficult things are for supporters during these hardened financial times and we do appreciate your help when the team
is not performing as we all want it to on the field of play!

The Supporters Club continues to provide transport to every first-team away match, regardless of the distance or the level of competition. With the club once again languishing in the bottom division we obviously have to face up to suffering a loss now and again, particularly to night matches in ‘lesser’ cup games. However, we cannot prejudge such things bearing in mind that Rovers have twice appeared in Associate Members, (LDV and JPT), Finals that both
commenced with poorly attended first round matches. We have away travel fully insured and this was of great benefit recently when Rovers’ match at Wycombe was abandoned. This insurance extends to coverage of coaches run by our Branches so I hope that members will continue to use this service. The branches have continued to grow over the last couple of seasons, nurtured by Ken Masters who travels all over the country both on branch ‘duty’ and in his various work as a Football Club Director, all at his own expense. I hope that members in outlying districts will take advantage of this service offered by hard-working volunteers all over the country. Whilst Ken has got the
Branches up and running now I have for some time been concerned that the support ‘family’ may be missing out when youngsters become too old for membership of the Young Pirates organisation. Ken and I are now working with the YP Committee to try and steer their maturing members into the Supporters Club and we will report on this as things develop.

The Supporters Club’s other elected Director, Brian Seymour Smith, is working hard to improve the match-day experience for supporters at home games and we have already this season seen new TV screens fitted in the bars and visits by two sets of former players as guests of the club. The Watney Cup-winning team from 1972 were particularly well-received and they very much enjoyed meeting fans in the bars before and after our opening match against Oxford. More such initiatives are in the pipeline and Brian is continuing in his efforts to reduce beer prices in the stadium. Committee member and matchday organiser Phil Draper has continued to run his increasingly popular
general knowledge quizzes and I thank everyone who helps to make these evenings a success. The annual Player of the Year presentation evening was held mid-week for the first time in many years at the end of last season at the request of our new manager as many of the former players were being released from contracts immediately following the final game, away at Dagenham. The ‘committee is out’ on this one for the future but a good time was had by all who attended considering the disappointing season and consequent changes in personnel and management. The clear winner of the main award was Danny Woodards, who went on to have an incredible summer, breaking his leg in the last game, having his brother murdered then becoming a father! Our thoughts are with Danny for a speedy return to action as he is already sorely missed. Eliot Richards was voted Young Player and Mitch Harding, one of the five under-18’s taken on full time contracts, was nominated as Youth Team POTY by his now-departed Coach, Jamie Fullarton. Sarah Hedges was awarded Clubman of the Year winner by the Committee for her many years of dedicated service as a programme seller from the early days at Twerton Park right up to her current day position at the
Memorial Gates. Sarah is just one of many who continue to help the Supporters Club despite a particularly frustrating period of performances on the pitch over the last couple of seasons. I would like to thank them all, as well of course as your dedicated Committee and our shop staff, for their continued efforts. We are doing everything we can to support the Board, management and players in their on-going quest to improve things both on and off the field and I particularly thank all our members for their backing in the hope that things are looking much better when I pen next year’s report!

Jim Chappell

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