March 3, 2016
A Pleasant Surprise. And Much More.
(This article by BRSC Chair, Jim Chappell, first appeared in the Hartlepool United programme.)
I think you can all stop pinching yourselves now – it really has happened to us, and not some other lucky club.
Bristol Rovers is now owned by a family with big connections in the football world, up to FIFA Presidency level and we will be able to compete in future on much better terms.
An advance phone call from outgoing Chairman Nick Higgs prepared me for an almost surreal press conference packed with media in the tiny Denis Dunford suite on Friday 19th February 2016.
One of the press interviews I gave was to the Bristol Post and when published Bristol Rovers reporter James McNamara gave my headline comment as ‘a pleasant surprise’ – a little understated I have to admit.
That was deliberately so given many a ‘false dawn’ breaking moment with this great club that I love and I had only just started to digest what the future could hold for us of the blue & white persuasion.
Probably the most heartening aspect of the takeover for me as Chairman of the Supporters Club is that the only two Directors who remain from the previous Board are Ken Masters and Brian Seymour Smith.
These are ordinary fans elected by the SC membership thanks to the Share Scheme that I signed up to with another former Football Club Chairman, Geoff Dunford, in 2003.
Approximately 200 members continue to support the Share Scheme but we all continue paying-in every month to purchase shares in the FC on behalf of the BRSC.
As a result of this foresight two ordinary fans remain to sit around the Boardroom table with some pretty distinguished individuals and Rovers’ supporters will continue to have some input.
The BRSC were not required to sell our shares, unlike others, including past Directors, such as Geoff Dunford.
It appears that our new owners are genuinely wanting to include the supporters in their ongoing venture.
Obviously at the back of all this is our loyal supporters and the potential of Bristol Rovers.
We have now been to Wembley, (old and new), and the Millennium Stadium on a total of five occasions and taken tens of thousands each time.
In the 1950’s to 1970’s there were often attendances in excess of 30,000 at dear old Eastville.
So, the possibilities once we start climbing the League and have a new ground capable, are obvious.
Even in that one awful season down in the Conference we pulled some incredible crowds, breaking all records at that level including of course an amazing 11,600 ‘sell-out’ here on the final day against little Alfreton Town.
So folks, our continuing involvement is down to you and especially those of you in the Share Scheme.
As they say; ‘thanks for your support’.
As I write this last week Ken, Vice Chair Chris Walker and I, (Brian works away up in the Midlands), are still in the process of ‘making friends’ with our new owners and future colleagues.
The composition of the eventual Board is still being determined.
For the moment, I can only speak as I find and all the Al Qadi family, especially our new President Wael Al Qadi and Chairman Steve Hamer, have been openly welcoming and friendly.
There is bound to be much talk on the terraces about a new stadium and new players but I don’t think much is going to change in the near future.
The Chairman has twice stated it will be ‘evolution and not revolution’ and I’m pleased to hear that.
In the excitement surrounding the new owners at half-time against Morecambe was a presentation made by Brian to Malcolm Norman, in celebration of his 50 years, since last missing a Rovers home game.
It was organised by programme contributor and club historian, Mike Jay, and it topped off a great day made even better of course with three more valuable points.
Congratulations to Malcolm; – I’ve got another six years for my unbroken half-century.
Up the Pirates.