Open letter to fans from Ben Garner

Apr 17, 2020 | News

Dear All,

First and foremost I would once again like to say a massive thank you to our incredible NHS.

In my opinion we are very fortunate to have the health system we do have in this country and this is being demonstrated so clearly at the current time. I have personally experienced the wonderful work that the doctors, nurses, and all of the NHS staff do in the past and especially so over the past few months.

I am sure everyone has been personally affected by this in some way and that has been been the case also at the club, with our CEO Martyn Starnes contracting the virus and being extremely unwell for a number of weeks. Thankfully, he is now back on the mend after what was a very tough period for him and his family and we are all delighted to have him back and in good health.

We have a huge amount to be thankful for and in the current climate we owe our gratitude more than ever to all of those continuing to carry out their vital roles during this pandemic. One of our own supporters, Mart Davis, is just one of the many doing so and I would like to say a personal thank you to him which I am sure you would all echo as fellow Gasheads. As a club, we are currently looking into ways in which we can do our bit to support the NHS once we come through the other side of this.

There are also a large number of key workers continuing to serve vital roles for the country and the local communities. From teachers to those working in our shops and supermarkets. Again I would like to say thank you to all of you and hopefully everyone appreciates what they are doing to make our lives easier during the current lockdown.

Over the past few weeks there have been some wonderful stories and inspiring events. None more so than the incredible Captain Tom Moore, who has already raised in excess of £18million for the NHS with his determination, enthusiasm, and positive outlook. He has captured the hearts of the nation and provides a shining example for us younger generations. A true Captain in every sense of the word. Also, there is the great initiative of Tom Doyle, Mark Rimmer, Andy Lynes, and Steve Taylor in cooking meals to feed the NHS staff in Edinburgh, Bath, and in Bristol. A great gesture and one which I am sure has been greatly appreciated.

We really have seen the best of our society in so many instances and there has been a great deal to be proud of. None more so than the outstanding work of our own Bristol Rovers Community Trust. Adam Tutton, Matt Bennett, Matt Davies, and all the other staff do a wonderful job continuing to provide care and support within the community. They are a key part of what Rovers is all about.

Tom Gorringe and all of the stadium staff have also done their utmost during this period. I recently wrote to all of our supporters over the age of 70 to offer our support if required. This week Ollie Clarke, Alfie Kilgour, and Alex Rodman joined the community staff in delivering much-needed supplies (plus a Rovers shirt) to those in need of them. The players are very committed to the Club and the Community Trust and I believe this shows the very essence of this great family football club.

I was extremely saddened to hear of the passing of a number of our own fans during this crisis. All of us at the football club offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families.

In these times of hardship come stories of great togetherness and community spirit, which is reiterated across the football family. I have been made aware of the passing of a supporter who attended Rovers games with his daughter. On hearing the news, a lifelong Millwall supporter, Phil Simmonds has been in contact with the club and has offered to purchase a Season Ticket next season for the daughter and guardian in what is an exceptional show of support to a family who have lost a close family member to this awful disease.

To share some more positive news we have gained at least one new member of the Gas family during this pandemic. Club volunteer and lifelong Rovers fan, Tom Foley, recently welcomed a new Grandson. Tom is a passionate Gashead and a valued member of our matchday staff, so much so that the new baby already has his first Rovers kit! Huge congratulations to Tom and all of his family. Plus a huge welcome to the Gas family!

During this period I have been very reluctant to speak about any football matters as it pales into insignificance in relation to everything that is going on. However, I am aware that as supporters you would like to receive some insight and also to perhaps have something to look forward to during this difficult time.

We have been able to continue to work diligently in terms of improving the infrastructure of the football club. Wael, the Senior Management Team and I speak regularly each week and we are all very committed to developing the foundations and processes that we believe will create both sustainability and success. We are very passionate about doing so and we all possess the drive to make significant progress on and off the pitch.

Another area we have been able to spend a lot of time on is recruitment. I inherited a strong recruitment structure led by Tommy Widdrington and excellent regional scouts who work as part of his team. In January I supplemented this with the addition of a data analytics company to support our recruitment processes. This has given us great balance between live scouting and the ‘eyes’ of our scouts with the hard data, statistics and insights from our new support team. Therefore I feel we have put ourselves in the best possible position moving forwards in terms of intelligent recruitment which is going to be essential with the changing landscape of football due to the impact of the virus.

The players are all well and are following the government guidelines. They have all been given the opportunity to work on individualised programmes, a wellbeing support pack, and access to video clips and matches. I am in constant contact with them and although desperate to return to football they fully appreciate the situation and current priorities. The welfare of them and their loved ones is the most important thing, as it is for all of you.

Finally, I would like to say a thank you to all the members of the Gas family. Well done for following the government guidelines, staying home and for helping to protect the NHS. We all have a part to play in overcoming this pandemic. Also, a thank you to all of you who have supported the football club throughout this pandemic. This has been done in numerous ways and we are extremely grateful. Over the coming weekend, we are hoping to surpass 1,000 season ticket purchases and I applaud every single one of you. Once again this shows the very fabric of Bristol Rovers Football Club. There has been great unity during these unprecedented times and there will be great unity in the future as we grow the football club.

Stay safe everyone and take care of your loved ones. I very much look forward to returning when it is safe to do so and can’t wait to see all of you once again at The Mem.


Ben Garner  Manager – Bristol Rovers Football Club