SC Chair Jim Chappell’s report to our AGM
November 22, 2018
Much of last year’s report was concentrated on the terrible business of having virtually all the Club’s funds embezzled but thankfully all that is now behind us with little actual damage done thanks to swift and kindly actions by several parties. On reading back through that report I am reminded that the Committee were just about to make a decision on continuing our lease on the Kingswood shop that we previously owned since the mid 80’s.
Soon after the season started we held an impromptu meeting in our stadium cabin and took ther decision to continue for a further three seasons at Kingswood until the lease ran out in 2020, thinking by then that there might be news on a new stadium by that time! No sooner had we done that when I received a call just a couple of days later from Rovers’ new Commercial Director, Tom Gorringe, asking for a meeting with him where I was informed that the Supporters Club would no longer be provided with official Rovers Merchandise or match and season tickets to sell as all these were being taken back ‘in-house’ by the Football Club from the end of the current campaign. So it was that another hastily rearranged gathering of the Committee unanimously decided to activate our ‘get-out’ clause to save what would virtually be three years of expenditure on rent, running expenses and, of course, staff wages. I trust the membership will agree that this was a necessary if very unsavoury decision that had been forced on us by circumstances.
Many could blame the Football Club but in truth we always knew that the day would come when the Rovers would take this course of action for obvious reasons and what other Supporters Club has ever had to run all the commercial operations of its ‘parent’ as BRSC has done for so many years. There are two really painful sides to the shop closure of course, the first being the loss to our members and other Rovers’ supporters of a fine local asset that has served north-east Bristol so well for so long and secondly having to make our loyal staff redundant. Berni and Paul, latterly also Anna on Saturday mornings, have manned ‘199’ ever since the Football Club moved out in 1988. Was it really thirty years? They were not just employees but friends and colleagues and they go with our very best wishes for whatever the future holds for them. Much of the Officers’ time and effort through the close season was spent dealing with these unfotunate redundancies and I would like to thank Secretary David Thomas, Vice-Chairman Phil Draper and especially our Treasurer Sue Williams for their tremendous help during this really difficult and upsetting task.
Closing down a retail shop after three decades was never going to be easy but we have carried out quite a lot of improvements to the place even after we sold it and became tennants so, whilst there was much to be cleared out we were able to keep ‘removals’ ‘in-house’ to save members’ funds. We could not have done it without the help of two great ‘Gasheads’, Mark Smith, who also helps us with the 50/50 Draw every matchday, and Sue’s husband Alan. These two were our ‘Pickfords’ with Mark’s van and they both deserve special praise for their efforts. Tom Gorringe kindly gave us permission to put in place a second storage container in the compound next to our matchday office cabin and this is now filled with the contents from ‘199’ – much sorting still to be done in the coming season! So, the Supporters Club is now the ‘proud’ owner of three containers at the stadium, the matchday shop, which will continue with all sales of ‘minor’ club items such as programmes, badges, scarves and the like and will now take on away travel and membership sales on matchdays, our matchday office from where we run the 50/50 and programme sales and the new storage container. If ever a new stadium is built perhaps they can go with us!
Another casualty this season has been the closure of the ‘Gold Bond’ draw which Berni ran for us at Kingswood although the reason for its ending is not entirely the shutting down of the shop. Our long time collector, Brian Iles had decided to ‘retire’ from his voluntary duties at the grand old age of 84 and I would like to place on record our sincere thanks for his effort over so many years. The Committee decided to bring the scheme to an end rather than try to find somebody new to take it on, especially with a paid administrator also required to take over from Berni. Any current member who wishes to continue in the draw can do so but the income will no longer benefit Rovers as the scheme is run by Blackpool F.C. who will now take all the proceeds. All our other activities continue but with everything now run from the stadium on matchdays by volunteers so watch our website and column in the programme for any changes.
We had a good season as far as all our other fund-raising activities are concerned and we continued the Supporters Club’s sponsorship of the Youth Academy to the tune of £29,000 as well as funding the newly formed Development Squad to the tune of £6,000, all this money coming from the 50/50 half-time draw. This was achieved without a decent cup run too so all credit to those of you who put their hands in their pockets to buy our tickets every matchday. Some residue money went todards sponsoring another new minibus that is being used by both the Academy and Community Departments, cost £16,000. As well as all that nearly two hundred members remain paying into the Share Scheme which money is forwarded monthly to aid the Football Club’s running costs and I thank all those who continue to support the scheme.
Some last-minute changes were forced upon the Committee and we had to hurridly rearrange our Player-of-the-Year presentations until after the last home match of the season. It was a packed Clubhouse bar that saw Ellis Harrison win the fans’ main award and a new shield was presented to him as the old trophy had become completely full. It was a great honour and privilege to have Sharon Dunford come along to present the shield that was named the Geoff Dunford Memorial Shield in memory of her husband, our dear friend and saviour of our beloved Football Club. Taking the Young Player award was Luke Russe who followed that on after winning the Youth Team trophy only the season before then making his first team debut. Luke looks like a Rovers Captain of the future to me and I hope he gets some more first team chances in the near future. Taking over from Luke as Youth Team (now Academy) POTY, chosen by Academy Head Jonny Henderson was James Spruce. Goal of the Season was again presented to Ellis Harrison for his strike against away to Doncaster Rovers on the 27th January. We are certainly missing Ellis’s goals so far this season even if he was never prolific and I for one miss his personality! The Committee chose long-time match-day seller Dave Hewitt as our Clubman of the Year for his willingness to take on any selling opportunity that comes his way. Finally we made a special presentation to Lee Browne for his seasons of service through relegation and two promotions, including of course, that goal! Congratulations to all the winners.
We had an internal revamp of the Executive Committee during the last year with Sue Williams switching from Secretary to Treasurer, a role to which she is fully qualified. David Thomas took Sue’s place as Secretary and he has done great work on our Club website. Phil Draper continues to run our matchday cabin and has taken on the extra duties of Vice Chairman thus bringing the four ‘officers’ positions back up to full strength. After many seasons as a steward on our coaches Leanne Hawkins has joined us as Travel Organiser – another post that desperately needed filling since the passing of Ralph Shaw a few seasons ago. I must pay tribute to all the Committee for their incredible hard work and the backing that they give me – The membership can be proud of the work that they do and the unpaid hours they put in. Likewise all our matchday volunteers, none of whom take a penny for all the duties they perform for the Rovers every matchday – rain or shine!
In some ways the closure of the Kingswood shop is a backward step but really, as I have mentioned before, it is just a sign of the times as no supporters club should be running a football club’s commercial activities such as ticketing, which is of course now going electronic at the stadium thus prompting the end of sales at Kingswood, and merchandising. Yes, we can sell a few scarves, badges and old programmes but it is not right for a small band of volunteers to be selling match and season tickets! So perhaps we revert to being an ‘ordinary’ supporters club like all the others after a period of over sixty years since the late, great Eric Godfrey and his colleagues purchased and ran 468 Stapleton Road so successfully from the 1950’s up until we moved to Kingswood thirty years later. But this is no ordinary supporters club and I’m sure we can go on to greater things without a commercial shop so I hope you will continue to help the Committee to do so by supporting our best efforts!