It is with much regret and sadness that the Supporters Club Committee reluctantly accepts the decision of Ken Masters to resign from the Board of Bristol Rovers Football Club. As Chairman I did not even know of Ken’s existence before he was elected as a Supporters Club-nominated Director on the Board some fourteen years ago. Since then we have developed an excellent working relationship in trying to develop the link between the Rovers’ executive and their supporters. I know how hard Ken has worked with the Committee and Directors of the Club previously and his treatment at the hands of the current ‘Board’ is a disgrace considering how much time, effort and money from his own pocket he has put into the highly rated and award winning Community Trust on top of his commitments to both the Board and the SC Committee.
I was asked by the Club’s President, at half- time on the side of the pitch during the last home game of last season back in early May 2019, how it was possible to remove Ken from the Board. I know that Ken has suffered a torrid time over the past twelve months and more. When I asked the reason for Ken’s suspension I was told the reasons were confidential. Since then no tangible reasons have been given to Ken or to the SC or in answer to questions by his lawyer to the Club’s lawyer. Ken learned of his suspension by way of being copied in to an email from the Club’s lawyers to me. The SC Committee supported Ken in instructing his lawyer because of the way we heard of his suspension with no reasons being given and with the first communication coming from the Football Club’s lawyer.
Ken’s unfortunate resignation now leaves the Supporters Club without representation on the Board despite the Share Scheme having pumped-in no less than £1.3 million since its inception in 2003. Two directorships remain available in accordance with the Share Scheme agreement but no supporter has stood for the office since Brian Seymour-Smith resigned a couple of years ago and frankly I could not recommend anyone to do so now with the Football Club’s accounts in their current state. The huge deficit has been covered by loans, not gifts, from the Al Qadi family and should those loans be called-in for any reason the Directors would be liable for the losses with Ken or any other ordinary supporter likely to lose all of his or her’s assets – house, car, possesions, whatever! I personally genuinely believe that the recent departure of Mike Turner from the Board may be for a similar reason although I stand to be corrected on this!
Finally, since the takeover of the Football Club by Dwane Sports, the Share Scheme has raised around £120,000 by way of ordinary supporters paying into the scheme on a monthly basis in exchange for little reward, except that of knowing they are contributing to their beloved football club. Since that date, as Ken says in his statement, not a single share certificate has been handed-over to the Supporters Club despite numerous requests including a verbal question from myself at the Rovers’ Annual General Meeting last year. Previously the certificates were written out on receipt of our monthly payments and were collected by our Treasurer. The certificates are, in effect, our receipt for the investment. More worryingly none of the shares we have purchased via the Share Scheme since the takeover have to date been recorded at Companies House!
I issued a final request to the Football Club’s lawyers on the 9th March requesting that the certificates be prepared and handed over and the shares be registered with Companies House by the end of March or we would with-hold old further payments. C.E.O. Martyn Starnes sent me a polite reply the following day stating he had asked Taylor Wessing to attend to the matter and that he would do his utmost to have the issue resolved as soon as possible. Unfortunately no further correspondence has been received since so the Committee is left with no alternative but to suspend future payments from the Share Scheme.
Clearly this issue needs to be discussed with those good supporters who remain in the scheme but that is impossible with the coronavirus restrictions that are currently in place. Therefore I would respectfully request all current members of the scheme to continue their payments for the time being and we will resume payments to the Football Club when the certificates have been produced. Should the certificates not be forthcoming we will hold a discussion with the scheme members as soon as we are able and will return any money paid over since the 31st March.