We are approaching three years since the Football Club was sold to new owners, February 2016. Across the support base hopes were high of a new stadium and sufficient and adequate facilities that would befit a football club representing the second largest city in the South of England outside of London. I thought these aims were essential to progress Bristol Rovers to the levels of other major conurbations in England and Wales with football clubs competing in the English Premier League and the EFL Championship; my opinion has not changed and my purpose has not changed.
I continued as a company director following the sale and purchase of the Football Club. My position is clear to me; I am accountable to the Chairman of the Supporters Club and I am responsible to the Chairman of the Company. This is a position that I do and would not seek to undermine in either regard. My work in a dedicated area remains as before. I am pleased and privileged to serve as Chairman of Trustees of the Bristol Rovers Community Trust; it is a time consuming role. The progress that we have made and the good work that we have delivered in our community has not gone without notice and recognition. I am delighted for all concerned with Bristol Rovers Football Club that the BRCT won the Bristol Life Charity of the Year award for 2018.
Bristol Rovers Supporters Club has been a partner in the operation of the Football Club over many decades and years. Observers have commented that the partnership is unique within football. I first became a member in 1955. I was a small boy being raised and brought up in Knowle. My Grandfather bought my membership as a present. At the recent home game against Southend my 93-year old Uncle took his place in the East Stand as usual, for my 9 months old Granddaughter it was her first game; it was a very special day. I am a member of the BRSC to be part of it all but I recognise that not only does the SC exist to support the parent football club but that it also exists to benefit it’s members and that there must be good reasons for joining. The past year has seen a good amount of change. The SC contribution to retail and ticket sales is no longer required by the commercial operation at the Football Club and so the SC outlet in Kingswood has been closed down. The section of the clubhouse reserved for members on matchdays has been revamped resulting in a change round for the reserved area and bar. Issues surrounding this change remain unresolved in my view although good progress is being made. I have raised the subject of benefits to members at Supporters Club Executive meetings over the past year and I will continue to do so. The Chairman, officers and members of the Committee have been receptive to my views. I understand that administrative and technical problems need to be resolved but the subject remains high on my agenda. I take this opportunity to thank very kindly the committee and our army of match day volunteers for their dedication to the cause and for their hard work over the past year.
The Work of the Bristol Rovers Community Trust continues to develop and grow. Inclusivity and widening participation remain the principles that steer and drive our work. The Trust operation is entirely independent, self- governing, self-managing and self- financing. Raising funds is an on- going process. The Trust is not for profit but financial controls and financial viability is paramount. Draft Accounts July 2017 through June 2018 are with the Auditors. The yearly accounts will show an operating surplus above budget forecasts. The financial position shows an adequate sum set aside as a reserve and in addition an unrestricted accumulation of cash at the Bank is shown deposited. Trustees are satisfied that these positions demonstrate sound budgeting and financial controls and give us scope to support new and locally devised initiatives going forward.
Our aim is to re-locate the work of the Trust to the Lockleaze Community Sports Centre build Phase Two; Phase One is already completed and occupied. A one million pound grant from the Football Foundation Premier League Hub Club is on course. The application process is being opened up to us currently. The Foundation has visited the site. A prospectus entitled “The Gaswork” has been produced. We are working hard to raise the remaining two million pounds required to complete the work from other sources of funds. The work is ongoing. I take this opportunity to thank Trustees Steve Hamer, Rod Wesson, Tom Stanton and Rachael Pryor for their attendance, work and support over the past year.
First and foremost we are a football club and all that we do ultimately stems from success at first team level; it’s all about performing and winning football matches. We have had one year to assess the impact of investing in the operation of a younger player Development Group. The group was brought together from a number of sources including from the Bristol Rovers Academy and from overseas. It is a total credit to all concerned that the group were crowned Champions of the Central Reserve League 2017-18. It was a magnificent effort and already the value is being demonstrated at first team level. Very well done and thank you to supporters who travel to Yate and other venues to show their appreciation on matchadys. I am pleased and proud that the SC Executive Committee agreed to sponsor the group for a second year. I travel with the group to support them at all times possible including away at Shrewsbury Town for a Central League Cup game when the first team was at Rochdale on the previous evening. At first team level staff appointments have continued with the addition of a Recruitment Officer with nationwide support and a First Team Defence Coach. Representing your Country at international level is a wonderful accolade. I take this opportunity to publicly congratulate Tom Lockyer. I have watched and followed Tom’s progress from when he joined Bristol Rovers as a 16 year-old from Cardiff City. Tom is a fine young man who represents Bristol Rovers and Wales with distinction. Tom is great ambassador. I take this opportunity to thank Tom and all players who give up their time to join in the activities of the Community Trust.
All said and done, we have come some way from the dark days of fifth tier football. To move onwards and upwards, let us be clear we need to improve the amenities and facilities for all; supporters, players, staff and management. We surely have ambitions for at least Championship Football; we have a massive fan base and the potential has been there for a very long time, I would say too long. What is more and for our supporters young and older not least, we must close that gap!
A developed training ground to accommodate all that we do on the playing side is essential. A stadium that befits our city and our region, one that is designed and built to 21st century standards and requirements, one that enables us to complete on a level playing field locally and nationally is essential. We must continue to work hard and to work together to make the progress we all want and to be where we want to be.
Finally but not least, the support given to our football club over the past twelve months has been magnificent. Season ticket sales have remained high and attendances have remained strong. Support on the road has been extraordinary yet again and is the envy of many football clubs. Crowd troubles at football matches home and away has been minimal. I give the Safety Officer all the support that I can. I attend all meetings of the Safety Advisory Group comprising City Council personnel, Police, Fire and Ambulance Services. I attend all stadium safety inspections.
Thank you for supporting Bristol Rovers Football Club. Your support is so very much appreciated.