Director Report One
September 7, 2016
The BRSC AGM is on Thursday 6th October 2016.
This Director’s report by Ken Masters is part of Item 6 from the Agenda of that meeting.
To view the details of the BRSC AGM: Click HERE
Braintree to The Bridge
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Change is part of our lives and having to cope with it is the one aspect of change that does not change; perhaps the only thing that does not change. Sometimes we welcome change, sometimes we are fearful of it but what we must always do is to accept it, to face up to it and move on.
The very nature of professional sport is that change is inevitable. Football is a prime example and the most talked about of all professional sports. There will always be comings and goings, promotions and relegations, champions at the top, even surprise ones, and clubs losing their League status at the bottom, even surprise ones of those. I remember Northampton going from the fourth tier to the top tier in successive seasons and then doing the reverse only to find themselves back where they started. That was extreme. I thought we will probably not see the likes of it again with parachute payments aimed at ensuring a degree of stability following relegation; then there was Blackpool. Few football clubs are immune to rise and fall and it can happen very quickly.
I was first elected ten years ago and I have found myself having to adjust to a good amount of change. Having retired from my final career position up the East Midlands I wanted to relocate whence I came and I wanted to give something to my lifelong passion and the people that shared that passion and the people that I never gave up of being a part of. I did not become a Bristol Rovers supporter at any time of my life by design or desire I was born one and so it will be for the duration.
Relocation bit took a big hit with the banking collapse and the resulting financial recession but that is now in the past and Gill and I are happily resettled in the Berkeley Vale. On the football side I have seen change with a new family ownership, four chairmen, six managers, one acting manager, two relegations and three promotions. I never thought I would see such change over a relatively short period in a long Rovers history.
I will carry two distinct memories with me forever. The Mansfield game will live long. I was so deeply hurt and sorry at the time and that will never change, time will never heel the sorrow that I felt and still feel today. The other memory is of a tiny part of a game in terms of time but massive in terms of outcome; just two players, just one kick of the football, just one player to kick it. Pure relief. If I have anything of a third memory it was a feeling of being a lone figure at Braintree. I was the only director representing our club at the game. If I had known that in two short years almost to the day of incredible change that I would be following our League 1 team to play Chelsea and playing so very well on the night to national acclaim I can’t say that I would have totally believed it; a two seasons roller coaster ride from Braintree to The Bridge.
My work behind the scenes has carried on through that period and the past year has seen a number of the new programmes and projects come to the fore in Community and Education. The demise of the Playing for Success government funding resulted in most football clubs buying in their respective education needs to support their ongoing community work. At Bristol Rovers we took the decision to deliver our education in house and develop it to new horizons. Playing for success was all for the primary school sector and in deciding to retain our education element we further extended our mission grow, to offer a wider range of activity for our support base and other members of our community and to develop lives with football the facilitator and main driving force.
The past year has seen a growth in the numbers engaged with the Futsal/BTEC level 3 education course. Recruitment to the first year intake has grown to well over twenty and we have been delighted to accept girls for the first time. We have been working hard to attract girls onto the programme for the past 3 or 4 years and we are very pleased that this is now the case. This past year we have been seeking in earnest a base to use with the provision and changing rooms to play futsal. With the aid and sponsorship of the Supporters Club we have renovated a facility at the Filton Leisure Centre for our purpose. We have two courts at the centre with changing facilities for males and females. This is a very positive development at this time and for use into the foreseeable future. The Bristol Rovers Community Trust is thankful and grateful for the Supporters Club funding without which the renovation work would not have been possible.
The past year has further seen our students obtain foundation degrees in Community Coaching for the first time. The degree programme is an outreach of the University of South Wales in Cardiff and is delivered entirely in the education centre at Bristol Rovers. The success of the programme and of the students has results in the granting of progression to the third year of the degree to be delivered at the football club. The grades achieved by our BTEC and our degree students have been outstanding and we congratulate the students and their tutors without reservation. We have attained a 100% pass rate of which we can be very proud.
The financial turnover of the Bristol Rovers Community Trust has increased in the order of ten times since I became chairman of trustees. In the past year we have engaged with children in primary schools and in secondary schools, post 16 and post 18 students at our own education centre, women and girls, young people at evening activity centres around Bristol, older people both men and women, men who want to improve their health, walking footballers and more. The Trust exists to serve and support our local community and uses football as a vehicle to promote the well-being of all.
The work of the Trust is never finished and it continues to develop and grow. In the coming year we will be working to provide apprentice training opportunities in community sports coaching. The work is being promoted and supported by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The aim is to increase the quality of sports coaching provision in the community and to increase the number of qualified sports coaches and to develop sports opportunities available.
Over the coming year our work in the community will include initiatives to give the opportunity to disadvantaged children’s groups and individuals to attend Bristol Rovers games at the Memorial Stadium. The idea is to support the next generation of Bristol Rovers fans in a more inclusive way. We aim to work with charities and community groups in the locality to help us to bring in those children in our community who are experiencing difficult circumstances in their young lives.
Thank you to everyone who supported me to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. The charity is the official charity of The EFL (Football League). The condition affects so many men and their families. One in ten men suffer with prostate problems; that’s around 1000 of a now typical attendance at a Bristol Rovers home game. The Jeff Stelling walk raised several hundred thousand pounds and it was a privilege to walk the final twenty-seven miles with him and others from football club to football club in London and to Wembley Stadium. The prediction is that the funding will aid research to identify early symptoms of the decease and that great changes to men’s life expectancy will be made over the next ten years.
Change is inevitable and we must embrace it where we can. I have no doubt that we will see more changes at Bristol Rovers. We have much to encourage us and much to build on. A lot has been said about under achieving in the past and you cannot argue against it. We have a massive fan base, we are the second largest city in the South of England after London, we have good transport links and we have huge potential. At the same time, we must acknowledge that we have local competition. We must embrace that local competition too and use it to our advantage.
We must engineer change; a proper training ground for our first team squad and for our youth academy. A stadium fit for purpose to take us forward and to bring in greater support and ensure our financial viability. A level of football that befits a city and surrounding areas the size of Bristol and a level of football that respects and squares up to local competition with equal expectation.
It’s not a dream; it’s a reality that we must work hard at together and as shareholders in our football club to bring about together, soonest.