AGM REPORT 1
November 11, 2015
BRSC CHAIRMAN’S AGM REPORT 2015
It is a great relief to be writing this year’s Report with Bristol Rovers back in the Football League at the very first attempt – frighteningly close though it may have been.
Whilst it was a very below par performance at Wembley and everything rested on just one penalty kick in the end victory was no more than the team deserved after being by far and away the best side in the Conference after Christmas. So in my eyes justice was done and every credit should be given to Manager Darrell Clarke and his staff for what was achieved following the horrors of the previous spring.
Reading back through my last year’s report I was instantly reminded of just how bad things were twelve months ago with fans in uproar and club staff being made redundant whilst Rovers prepared for a life none of us ever envisaged. Thankfully, it turned out to be for just the one season and it was generally a campaign enjoyed by supporters with plenty of new grounds to visit and a mostly friendly and welcoming atmosphere almost everywhere but hopefully we will never have the pleasure of National League football again.
A decent start has already been made to the new Football League campaign with the Manager sticking firmly to his principles, achieving all that has been asked of him, (in his first League job), on a strict budget and Clarke is clearly a favourite with most supporters and well respected by his players and opposing clubs alike. Long may it continue.
Off the field of course things have not been so good with the Football Club losing it’s High Court battle against Sainsbury’s and the Board now facing another lengthy delay and much expense should a final appeal, not to be heard until the end of the year, again be unsuccessful. Let us hope that this appeal ends in a victory and Rovers can finally proceed with the exciting UWE Stadium project at Frenchay. We are surely due a change of luck in this long-running saga.
Building development has also been uppermost on the Supporters Club’s Executive Committee agenda over the last year with us finally being successful in finding a buyer for the Club shop at 199 Two Mile Hill Road, Kingswood. We were able to sell the whole property with building permission already in place as previously reported for flats to be built on the top two floors. Best of all we were able to negotiate a lease back on just the ground floor shop and therefore had no need to relocate to other premises.
Unfortunately the timing of the sale back in the spring could not have been much worse with Rovers clearly going to finish the season in the top five and consequently into the play-offs if we did not eventually claim the one certain promotion place. Regrettably the team’s season-long chase of Barnet went right to the final day but just failed by a single point to leave us with all the necessary redevelopment work taking place whilst we were extremely busy selling play-off tickets, coach travel, memberships and the like.
We tried our best to reduce inconvenience to our members but frankly our staff had to work in what amounted to a building site at the worst possible time. Unfortunately it was the ‘only deal in town’ and the redevelopment is still not yet completed at the time of writing due to the complexity of the internal work required to provide separate access for the residential flats and retail shop.
Hopefully this will be done soon but meantime I must pay tribute to Bernie, Paul and Teresa for putting up with all the dirt and inconvenience, also to Vice Chairman Chris Walker for his tireless efforts to organise the work whilst everyone else was thinking of Wembley. My thanks to all our members and other supporters for their patience and forbearing during what continues to be an extremely difficult transition. Hopefully it should all be worth it in the end.
The payment received for the sale of the shop has been set aside into an high-interest account in order for the Supporters Club to contribute towards supporters’ facilities in the new stadium, when this eventually goes ahead. From it we have also set aside enough to cover the projected rent for the length of our present tenancy so as to protect the trustees of the Club who would otherwise be personally liable.
Rovers relegation out of the League did not cause the Supporters Club the financial heartache we might have expected due to the team rapidly overcoming a poor start to the campaign and of course mounting a serious chase of the Conference championship throughout the rest of the season. Memberships, coach travel and souvenir sales were all better than we could have hoped for thanks to the fantastic support both at home and away. Several crowd records were broken including the final match of the regular season and the Play-off Final itself and every credit must go to our fans for giving the team so much vital support.
The Share Scheme continues to provide valuable monthly payments in return for shares in the Football Club. The Committee would like to provide more in return for members of the scheme but frankly it is difficult with the facilities on offer until the new stadium can be built. Any suggestions for things we can do in the interim period would be gratefully considered.
Thanks to the Scheme we are guaranteed two places on the Board of Directors and at last year’s AGM Brian Seymour Smith successfully defended his position against challenger Rod Chapman and Brian continues to put forward supporters’ views to the Board alongside Ken Masters. My thanks go to both of them for the time and effort they put in to representing our views to the Football Club.
Our highly successful 50/50 half-time draw was also unaffected by relegation as the increased home crowds led to a run of big money pay-outs to lucky recipients. The 2nd prize of £100, given each time we exceed a £500 first prize, seemed to be popular and we have continued with it this season. Despite the 2nd prizes no less than seven out of the last nine draws produced first prizes in excess of £1,000 – a fantastic achievement for a non-league club so a big ‘thank you’ to all our regular customers.
The profits go of course to Rovers highly successful Youth Academy and the results are there for all to see with a string of youngsters joining established first-team players like Lines, Lockyer, Clarke and Harrison who have all come up through the ranks. The Under-18’s, managed by Alan Walsh, have at the time of writing almost completed a whole year undefeated in the South West Youth Alliance League so well done to everyone involved in their coaching and a another big ‘thank-you’ to our small army of sellers and ‘behind the scenes’ workers who make ‘Raise the Youth’ one of the very best draws in the lower leagues.
Alan Walsh was honoured by the Committee as our ‘Clubman of the Year’ for his work with the Under-18’s and he in turn nominated Tyler Lyttle as ‘Youth Team Player of the Year’. In the last few days as I write Tyler made his full first-team debut at table-topping Leyton Orient and he joins the long list of youngsters who have made it into League football from Rovers’ Academy.
Tom Parkes completed a big turn-round in his career by being voted ‘Player of the Year’ and Ellis Harrison just beat previous multiple winner Tom Lockyer to the ‘Young Player’ award. Ellis also lifted the trophy for ‘Goal of the Season’ for his brilliant late game-saving equaliser at Halifax. Congratulations to all those worthy winners.
Finally, my thanks go to all of your Committee, our two elected Directors, our three shop staff, the army of match-day sellers and helpers and all our members who stuck with the team during a very dark but thankfully short period in Rovers’ long history. With a bright young manager at the helm there is every chance that those bad days of a year ago will never be repeated and our club can go on to a much more successful future.
Thank you for your great support.
Bristol Rovers Supporters Club Chairman.