BRSC Chairman’s Annual Report
September 4, 2013
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2013
I am writing this report with a true sense of optimism following the re-appointment last season of John Ward as Bristol Rovers’ Manager. John is someone who has achieved success not only for Rovers in the past but also for our cross-city rivals and other clubs in the lower divisions. The club has been decimated by many long-term injury victims since the second half of last season but, many of these are now starting to return to action and the promotion of several youngsters to replace them from our highly successful Youth team, (of which more later), has given even more optimism for a much better campaign now under way! The disappointing season was reflected in our figures as you can see in the year-end accounts and our financial position led the Committee to make an obvious but nevertheless very disappointing decision to put the Club Shop at 199 Two Mile Hill Road up for sale. As reported previously, we have been working for the last year or so to get planning permission to turn the upper two floors, unused for some time, into flats and two of our members, Pete Gildersleve and Mike Reed, gave their time and expertise free of charge to do so. Despite an initial rejection by the City Planners they were eventually successful around the same time as Sainsbury’s obtained permission to redevelop the Memorial Stadium! Unfortunately the Supporters Club’s funds had dwindled sufficiently to prevent us from carrying out the work ourselves as the building is in quite a poor state and therefore we decided to put the shop on the market in its present condition but with the planning permission for two flats in place. At the time of writing we are attracting some interest in the building and we are actively looking for a smaller alternative shop to rent somewhere in the East Bristol area. We will keep members advised on progress through the usual channels but, whatever the outcome, the Committee are determined to maintain an independent outlet to serve our members’ needs. Meantime, on behalf of the Club, I would like to give thanks to Pete and Mike for their considerable efforts on our behalf.
Whilst 2012/3 was a disappointing season for the club it has not by any means been all bad news!
The granting of planning permission for the redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium by Sainsburys will release the main funding for Rovers to build the new UWE Stadium on the University’s Frenchay Campus and this fantastic news was made possible with help from several Supporters Club members including Paul Seaton and Chris Walker. Chris has subsequently been invited onto the Executive and has also joined our band of matchday sellers. Chris is joined by another new Committee member, Helen Wigmore from the Share Scheme Committee, in standing for formal election by the membership at the A.G.M. and I trust that you will endorse their nomination as I expect both to make a positive contribution to the Club in the future. All going well, by the time this report is considered at the A.G.M. building work should have started at UWE and the dreams of all Rovers’ supporters should be being realized. Whilst, at the time of writing, there remains still the possibility of a legal challenge against the redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium I would like to place on record the thanks of all our members to Chairman, Nick Higgs, and all those who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make those dreams a reality after so many years of frustration whilst the club searched for a new home!
Rovers’ under-18’s Academy side, sponsored of course by the Supporters Club’s 50/50 half-time draw, were simply brilliant throughout the 2012/3 campaign and produced surely the best ever performance by a Rovers youth team, winning a League and Cup ‘double’. Even more important is the fact that several members of the Youth Academy squad are already performing with great distinction in Rovers’ first team, and that importance has been made more so by the horrendous injury crisis recently endured by the club. Already the latest crop of under-18’s are defending the title with vigour and have a 100% success rate at this very early stage of the new season. The Committee have already agreed to increase funding from the 50/50 in order for Rovers to obtain additional matching monies from the Football League. We can only achieve this thanks to the wonderful efforts of the SC sellers and helpers who are out in all winds and weathers and I have to pay tribute to them all on behalf of the club. Goalkeeper Matt Macey was nominated Youth Team Player of the Year by his coach, Alan Walsh, and he was presented with his trophy on the pitch after Rovers’ last home game. This was a new departure for us and that gave every supporter the chance to see the awards without having to come back to the stadium on a Sunday evening. This change seemed to be well received by the majority of fans and we’ll probably repeat it next May. Player of the Year was a very close-run thing but the ever-consistent Michael Smith took the main award whilst our skipper, Tom Parkes, lifted the Young Player award. The Jane Browne Trophy, for the ‘Goal of the Season’ was again presented by her brother, the aforementioned Pete Gildersleve, to Ollie Norburn for his fantastic last-minute point-saving strike at Cheltenham. My congratulations to all those worthy winners and my thanks go to all of your hard-working Committee, and of course to the Supporters Club’s army of unpaid workers who make the whole thing possible.
I cannot let this review of the season go by without making mention of the passing of a dear friend and former committee colleague, Ralph Shaw, who unfortunately died just as the new campaign was about to begin. Ralph, who was still acting as our Steward on the Supporters Club’s coaches right up until the end of last season despite his illness, attended every Rovers game with his wife Jean and was loved and respected by all who knew him. There was a large attendance of supporters at Ralph’s funeral and he was fittingly included along with two other Rovers’ stalwarts in kitman Roger Harding and broadcaster Colin Howlett in a minute’s applause before the opening home game of this season. Our since condolences go to Jean, son Kevin and the rest of Ralph’s family and it is good to see Jean still attending Rovers, just as he would have wished I’m sure!
John Ward who has an unrivalled knowledge of Leagues 1 & 2 and let’s hope that this time our optimism for a better season ahead is proven right come next May! Meantime a new Club shop is on the cards along with the prospect of a fantastic new stadium which the Supporters Club will be investing in so, thanks for your continuing support in what promises to be very exciting future at Bristol Rovers!