BRSC EGM Minutes

June 26, 2014

Please find below the minutes of the recent BRSC EGM. Please note that some questions were combined at the meeting by those asking questions and some members chose not to ask their particular submitted question.

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Minutes of the Extraordinary General Meeting of Bristol Rovers Supporters Club held in the Bristol Room at the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, 17th June 2014.

Present: From the Executive Committee of Bristol Rovers Supporters Club: Jim Chappell ( Chair ), Brian Seymour Smith, Ken Masters, Sue Williams, Chris Walker, Phil Draper, David Thomas, Helen Wigmore, and Janet Wooster. From Bristol Rovers Football Club: Nick Higgs, Darrell Clarke, Barry Bradshaw and Toni Watola. A total of 116 members of Bristol Rovers Supporters Club.

CHAIR’S WELCOME AND OPENING REMARKS.

JC opened the meeting with the following statement: Good evening and welcome to everyone, especially to our guests from the Football Club, for this Extraordinary General Meeting that has been called by the Executive Committee to discuss Bristol Rovers relegation from the Football League, the reasons for it, it’s consequences and what can now be done to reverse our decline.

I guess that everyone in this room is, like me, still trying to come to terms with what has happened and the fact that Bristol’s oldest professional club is no longer a member of the Football League for the first time in nearly a century. There has naturally been an outpouring of anger from life-long supporters and blame has been directed at everyone from Chairman and Directors down through the Club’s management, on and off the pitch, even to the Committee sat before you. We had wanted to hold a meeting as soon as possible after the club’s demise but the practicalities of arranging such a meeting and getting together all those people most concerned with the running of the club has meant that it is longer than we had hoped. For that please accept our apologies.

JC concluded by paying tribute to a life-long Rovers season ticket holder, John Robson, who had recently passed away and by saying a big thank you to Chris Walker who has played a major part in the organisation of this meeting and has put in many hours of work to ensure that it runs smoothly.

CW went on to explain how the meeting would run. It is split into three separate sections and if we are going to ensure that every question gets asked we are going to have to be strict with our time-keeping. Every person that asks a question will be allowed a response after they have heard their answer and the hope is that there will be time at the end of each section for questions from the floor. He went to demonstrate his “bicycle bell system” if anyone is speaking for a while. He also thanked all members who came, all those who submitted questions, those that re-arranged holidays so that they could be there, and our invited guests.

BSS addressed the meeting thanking people for the messages of support following his recent bereavement which proved to him that Bristol Rovers is a family. As board members he and KM would like to apologise and it is important that we re-group, stay positive, and regain our position at the earliest opportunity.

A REVIEW AND EVALUATION OF THE CAUSES AND IMPACT OF OUR RELEGATION FROM THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Last season there were a lot of questions asked throughout the fanbase about transparency. We got given information about what was happening, but never seemed to get any information about why it happened. Norburn’s sudden exit, the Richards/ Gow switch, Ward being moved upstairs at a critical time of the season are all examples. I fully understand that you cannot give out every drop of information, and you might not of realised that you were alienating your own fans but can you please explain to me what you will do to make fans feel that you’re not pulling the blinds down on them in the future. ( submitted by Member P, who asked to remain anonymous and did not attend the meeting).

DC said Ollie Norburn’s exit was purely for footballing reasons and was JW’s decision which was backed by staff. Eliot Richards/Alan Gow swap was also JW’s decision.

NH said JW made clear at start of 2013/14 season he wanted to be DoF before end of season. Brought in DC as assistant so he could take over in time. In February JW approached the board and the managerial switch was agreed in March. No intention to alienate fans. NH wants fans to understand that there are certain things that cannot be broadcast until finalised. He feels for KM & BSS that they cannot report all they know/hear back to fans.

Following the review and evaluation into the causes of the relegation of Bristol Rovers Football Club by the Board of Directors if it is found that any of the Board of Directors are found to be culpable with the cause of relegation will they be asked to resign ? ( submitted by Morley Sims ).

NH apologised to fans for the situation we are in and said we all need to pull together. Stated no one is culpable as relegation was not intended. The board have supported all managers, sometimes too much. There has been a £10m investment from directors since NH has been on the board.

Morley Sims replied he is not anti-board just wants answers as someone is to blame.

On the last day of the season it was clear that the Club wanted the Police to deal with any criminal behaviour by the fans on a zero tolerance basis. Can the club confirm that a similar approach was taken to any criminal activity in which staff or players were involved during the season and can the Club give any more information around the termination by mutual consent of one players contract in March ? (submitted by Chris Wathen ).

DC said again that ON departure was on footballing grounds. He wanted to leave and DC would have released him last August if he was manager. NH & TW said they were not aware of any allegations against ON and the rumours only surfaced after his release.

Why was no striker brought in during the last window and then the experienced manager moved upstairs right at the end of it ? ( We had strikers, yes, but they were unfit or not on form ). ( Submitted by Richard Hughes ).

TW said club made finance available to JW to bring in a striker. Many names suggested. JW assured board there was enough quality in the squad to stay up. DC said a striker was needed all season, not just on deadline day.

Has the Board completed it’s review, and considering their lamentable record in the last few years, is there any likelihood they will learn from past mistakes ? ( submitted by Rod Chapman ).

NH said that a discussion paper has been tabled to the Board. We have to learn from past mistakes & build a squad for promotion.

I don’t believe we are challenging our relegation. We played crap and deserved it. Where does that leave us in the transfer market ? Which division are we recruiting for ? This could delay crucial signings. What a shambles ! Higgs has spent too much time listening to bloodsucking lawyers get rich regardless of how things turn out. Really annoyed. ( submitted by a member, Pete Gildersleve, who was not present ).

TW explained that the Club were alerted to Wycombe’s alleged wrong-doings by the agent, Phil Smith. They believe that they have uncovered a further three cases of third-party ownership and that the investigations are ongoing.

CW: There has been considerable concern expressed about the apparent lack of financial planning for a possible relegation. Is it possible now to confirm the total amounts and sources of lost income for next year and subsequent years as a result of our relegation ?

TW – Relegation was not considered. Considerable interruption from the floor. Cost to club of relegation is £500k from central funds plus loss of attendance, especially from away supporters. Following year will be a further £190k.

CW: Can you explain why an external group or individual was not brought into the club to conduct the thorough and detailed review of the entire organisation that it has been stated is required to bring around the structural improvements ?

NH – No one has said a review is required!!

DT: Is there a need for new financial support for the board from people who are not currently part of the board of directors ?

NH said there is always a need for financial support. The BoD has put in significant sums of money. 9500 fans are required each home game to break even. The BoD are always looking for extra financial investment

DT: Has the review identified that there is a need for a fresh influx of directors with time, energy and expertise to ensure that the football club can make the best of the potential benefits from the new stadium development ?

NH said the BoD already has a level of expertise required for the UWE stadium and they are always open to offers.

PD: Will our relegation limit or prevent any of the community based events that the club is currently involved with ?

TW said the Community Department will lose funding but the club are expecting the department to grow. KM is responsible for this department and he explained that when Ron Craig was chairman it had a turnover of £30k. It now turns over £120k for education alone and it’s target is a turnover of £300k. KM has been to meetings with Football League Trust regarding funding and has visited Grimsby Town FC to discuss how relegation affected them. We will lose £30k core funding but can bid for £20k from conference. The education programme that is already in place will be allowed to continue by the Football League.

As we had finished this section in good time there was time for questions from the floor:

Bernard Brain – It would seem JW is the fall guy and the directors have got us where we are caring more about the UWE stadium and not the football. BB replied that the BoD are always looking for potential directors. We have sufficient expertise to take us into the new stadium. Agreed communication is a problem and needs looking at.

Martin Rowe(?) – What has been done to retain Lee Brown and Michael Smith? NH stated that Lee has been offered a new contract and Michael an extension but neither had signed yet. DC said he won’t be held to ransom by players wanting more money and that players are replaceable. In his opinion some players here have been paid too much. Lee Brown has attracted interest from league clubs

Mike Jay – If JW was in position when DC arrived why was DC put in charge with 8 games to go? JW seems to be a scapegoat. NH stated again that JW asked to move upstairs. DC said JW seemed to lose his love of the game. He came to learn from JW but found JW to be very much his own man.

Brian Williams – Regarding cost of relegation he suggests putting in £500k now to get out of the conference or find new directors. NH replied we are!

A SHARING OF IDEAS ON HOW BRSC EC AND MEMBERS CAN BEST ASSIST BRFC TO SUCCEED IN THE FUTURE.

Does the constitution of BRSC, in 2.6 mean that BRSC has to implicitly follow every action of BRFC ? ( submitted by Richard Hughes )

JC said the Supporters Club do not always agree with the Football Club. They are there to support the club as they both have a common purpose. The Supporters Club challenge things they don’t agree with but must have a working relationship with the Football Club

Will the SC carry out a review of the roles played by the Fans Directors ? Are they able to influence board discussions or actions ? Could an example be given by each director of something they have been solely responsible for. ( submitted by Richard Hughes ).

BSS – Ken and I will not hide behind confidentiality but there are confidentiality issues to consider with regard to reporting back what is said at meetings but we do try and answer as much as we possibly can. The Fans Directors are always available to fans and have passed ideas onto the board eg ticket prices/offers, bar prices etc. BSS used the forum to communicate with fans but this became increasingly difficult due to the number of “keyboard warriors” on there. This EGM was suggested by BSS & KM. They have asked NH to do more Q & A sessions and share more info, if possible, with the fans. Everything BSS & KM do is for the benefit of the supporters. We were both very concerned about the prospect of relegation after Christmas. The SC did put up £10k to assist the club to bring in a striker on loan. We will do everything possible to get the club back in the football league.

KM – Is Chair of the Community Trust and this work is a full-time job. 2 weeks ago represented the club at the Conference AGM in Newport and was not told how to vote by the BoD,

NH – BSS & KM are valued members of the board and play a very valid part on the board. Ken’s strength is in education and Brian is very much a people’s man. The Board is not run on share-holding but on one man, one vote.

Could the Club, Chairman, Manager or whoever stop appealing to supporters to turn up at games and get behind the team ? Attendances both home and away are above average and the fanbase is the least problem the club faces. ( submitted by Richard Hughes ).

DC – The supporters are fantastic. Success is vital with fans support. All have to pull together. There will be an expectation level and he will always ask for the fans support to help achieve this

JW: From the point of view of the Board of Directors, what would be lost if there were no SC Directors at Board meetings ?

NH – The Supporters Club directors are invaluable to the Football Club. They are the link between the BoD and the fans. They bring skills not already on the board. Directors are very hard to recruit and it is a thankless job. The flak is appalling but we do it because we love the club. We have to get the new stadium built.

JW: From the point of view of the Board of Directors, what would be lost if there was not an active Supporters Club ?

NH – Supporters Club is invaluable, arranging away travel, ticket sales etc. They represent the fans and reflect their view. Again they provide a link to the football club.

BB – Would like to see BoD working closer with the Supporters Club. He admitted mistakes have been made in the past and maybe they BoD were too blinkered with the new stadium. The Football Club need the Supporters Club and BSS & KM

As we had finished this section in good time there was time for questions from the floor:

John Malyckyj – To BSS & KM We have heard lots of apologies but from the Supporters Club perspective what do they think needs to change to move the club forward? BSS replied that this was a very fair question and from his point of view communication is the key. The club needs to find a new way to communicate with and to listen to the fans. They also need to use the directors and fans talents more. KM replied we need to score more goals and win matches!! He also stated that a change in recruitment is needed as players are paid too much and are given too long contracts. DC needs to bring in hungry players and KM believes he has started that process. BSS agreed with KM. He also stated that the scouting system needs to be looked at. He would like to see a chief scout appointed. DC added that the players brought in will be his players and he won’t want to manage anyone else’s players.

JM replied that we have previously signed too many journeymen who are simply not good enough

This was also asked: Rickie Lambert’s transfer to Liverpool. Understand we have £500k from the sell on clause. What will this be used for? Will it be spent on new players? TW replied that it is not £500k…but close! As Liverpool are paying Southampton in instalments the money will not be paid in a lump sum but spread over 16 months. It will be used to run the club.

AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE STRATEGY AND PLAN OF CAMPAIGN TO REGAIN OUR LEAGUE STATUS ASAP

Having disenfranchised nearly 10,500 members of the Bristol Rovers Fans Forum following it’s closure what are you going to do re-engage with many of those loyal Bristol Rovers supporters who are still extremely very angry with that decision other than through Twitter or Facebook ? (submitted by Morley Sims ).

BB – the BoD chose to close the forum due to libellous comments. NH said whoever hosts the site is legally responsible for the comments.

Are BRFC going to hire a football person ( analyst ) to regularly assess the performance of the team and hold the Manager and his assistant accountable ? ( submitted by Trevor Edwards, who apologised in advance for his absence from the meeting ).

DC said it will be his job and his responsibility to assess performance.

Does Darrell Clarke believe he can build a squad that can compete at the top end of the table ? ( submitted by Rod Chapman ).

DC expects to be at the top end of the table. He is confident but stated it won’t be easy. There will be no long contracts for players, usually 1 year with further 1 year incentive. He is confident and he will have a much larger budget than he had at Salisbury but is aware that teams will raise their game when the play against us. For five years Luton got it wrong using league players on big money.

SW: At an open forum earlier this year it was stated that the Football Club would be looking to employ a Chief Executive in the future. Can you confirm that this will still happen and give us some idea of the timescale before a Chief Executive or an MD is appointed ? To produce meaningful change, structural improvements and the leap forward the club desires an externally recruited CEO is necessary. Can you confirm that the review of club operations has identified that this fresh appointment is one of the key catalysts for moving forward ? Supporters have expressed concerns that the club has focused too much on the new stadium rather than the footballing side. Is it now time for the Chairman’s skills in delivering the stadium to be acknowledged by delegating the football side to another director or CEO ?

NH – External CEO will be appointed. This has been built into the budget at the new stadium and possible candidates have been approached. It will be a key appointment when the revenue is available There are a number of other key positions built into the budget. There have been a number of complex decisions regarding the UWE stadium. All footballing decisions have been made by the whole board and not just NH. He did think that the BoD were guilty of giving some managers too much support.

HW: There has been considerable questioning of the inadequacy of the scouting structure at the club in recent times. Can you confirm what the scouting system in future will be and why this will be an improvement on the system under recent managers ?

DC – Stuart Gray was chief scout for JW for 19 years but has now left the club. DC confirmed he will be hands-on with the scouting procedure. DC & MS will look at more games particularly U21 development for prem/championship clubs. He will be looking to use the loan market more with players from league teams.

HW: In recent seasons we have seen a succession of players with long-term injuries. Has the review of the club’s operations been able to identify any ways in which this can be avoided in the future ?

Players have a thorough medical with the club doctor before joining. They work a lot on injury prevention, stretching etc. Most of these injuries were not caused by training but in matches.

SW: It has been announced that Directors have been given specific responsibility for aspects of the Football Club. Could you outline the areas identified to focus upon, the Directors allocated to each area and the outcomes of each area reviewed ?

There is an ongoing review of the director’s roles and the results will be published on completion.

PD: Relegation does not happen entirely by accident. Has the review and evaluation of the events of recent times identified any particular areas that the Board are prepared to state were the decisions ore non-actions that were most harmful to the aim of keeping league status.

NH – Lack of goals cost us last season and the non-recruitment of a proven goal scorer. He felt there was low confidence in defence at the end of the season. He would not advocate that the BoD signs players. There was no play-maker and the injury to Gow was a cruel blow. DC stated that he has to manage mind-sets especially when players are under pressure. He doesn’t like to manage like JW but only scoring 10 away goals all season speaks for itself. He maybe tried to change too much too soon but he felt he would be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

CW: Can you outline how young players who have recently stepped up from the youth ranks such as Aaron, Jamie, Dominic and Danny will improve in the season ahead when there is no league for them to play in and an absence of competitive matches for them to play in ?

DC – would like to get younger players out on loan to gain experience. He doesn’t like to see players sitting in the stand and all players will be assessed in pre-season. He will also arrange friendlies at the training ground

HW: It has been stated that the youth team funding is phased out over two seasons when a side leaves the league. Can you outline how the youth team structure will be maintained and how the youth team at the club will be funded if we do not get back into the league quickly ?

TW – BoD are totally committed to the youth department. Ed Ware looks after the department and it is the clubs intention to continue with the department.

PD: Currently, training for teams within the football club is based at a number of separate bases. Is the club in a position to actively seek to improve the training facilities for the youth team, the first team and for the club as a whole ?

NH – the club has tried to find one base but has been unable due to the cost. This will be the long term plan when the stadium is built. The money needs to be used on the team at the present time.

DT: Can you give us a UWE Bristol Stadium up-date, please, particularly with regards to the Jamie Carstairs appeal and whether there any contractual delays with Sainsbury’s.

TW – the Jamie Carstairs appeal has been refused by English Heritage. There are 5 different legal agreements to bring together. This is ongoing but is taking time due to holidays. The intention is to start building at the back end of summer.

PD: Can you confirm whether or not there are the equivalent of FFP/SCMP restrictions in non-league football that will limit our financial decisions and recruitment of players in the year ahead.

TW – Conference has a FPP version but a very different one to the Football League. There is no cap on wages but they look to ensure the club can fund the cost of running the club for the next year. Directors have to pledge to fund any loss.

JW: What are the key actions the Board intend to take to ensure the swiftest possible return to the Football League ?

NH – The club will provide DC with all the financial backing he needs.

PD: John Ward was sacked as the Director of Football recently. Can you confirm whether this was because of financial pressures or because the club will not have a long-term structure with a Director of Football included as part of the management set-up ?

NH – There will not be a DoF role at the club until we are back in the football league. John Ward was released due to financial reasons.

HW: The fitness coach from last season has been sacked. Can you confirm how the role and duties that were his responsibility will be fulfilled in the season ahead ?

DC – Was proud of how fit his team were at Salisbury and will deal with the fitness himself.

CW: Can you confirm what criteria is being used in the selection and recruitment of potential first team players in the future ?

Jamie White was a pro at Southampton. Both him and Matt Taylor are regular goal scorers. MT had other offers but chose BRFC. DC stated that he is taking time to get the right players in but has to be sure they tick the right boxes. He has spoken to 150 agents since the season ended and has had a few hits as well as a few misses. By mid-July a promotion winning squad will be assembled

CW: What assurances can you give that the team can challenge for promotion into the Football League at the end of the 2014/15 season?.

DC – Expectation is to get promotion. He is an attacking manager. He will be honest and will hold his hands up if things are going wrong and will always be happy to talk to fans and explain decisions.

As we had completed this section in good time there was time for questions from the floor.

Mike Fry – Suggested an open forum every 3 months. NH agreed and will try to get this arranged. It is important to give facts to the fans.

Bernie Green – BRFC are now a conference club competing with a L1 team in the city. Will there be offers to bring people to the Mem? NH replied that offers must not be counterproductive. The club must still make money. Intending to give offers to UWE students once stadium is built

John M – The position of CEO, does the club see the role to be with the football club or the stadium? NH – will be over managing groups and the footballing side

Martin Smith – Football is a results game. It has been clear for several years we are not getting the results. How was it not possible to BSS & KM to convey the fans thoughts to the BoD?

Mike Jay – The rugby club has now left the ground. Due to the loss of finance should we be looking for another tenant to gain revenue? TW – There will be a financial impact of approx. £200k a year. The benefit is less games on the pitch resulting in a better playing surface. There is no other tenant around.

John (coach driver) – The team often stay away on a Friday night before a game. Will this still be the procedure? DC- Not a fan of this. If there is more than 4 hours travelling to a game they will stay away otherwise they will travel on the day.

CHAIR’S THANKS FOR ATTENDANCE AND CLOSING REMARKS.

Jim thanked everyone for coming and added that he doubted that we could get through it. We got some good honest answers this evening and if we can repeat this format again we will.

Compiled by David Thomas & Helen Wigmore.</span> (BRSC Executive Committee Members)

(While every care has been taken to provide an accurate and valid account of the Extraordinary General meeting, please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information above. If anyone has any reason to believe there are any inaccuracies or omissions in these minutes please contact BRSC as soon as possible.)

 

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