Our Chair Jim Chappell’s report to our AGM

Oct 30, 2019 | Committee News, News

The success (or lack of it) of the Supporters Club depends a great deal of course on the performance of our Football Club, especially with regard to playing performance which directly dictates ground attendances and retail profits. Rovers’ rather surprising poor showing in the first half of the 2018/19 season certainly confirmed that and it had a knock-on effect to the Supporters Club after four years of great progress under the managership of Darrell Clarke. The lack of success in the major cup competitions did nothing to help and although the team eventually became just ninety minutes away from Wembley in the much-derided Checkatrade Trophy that tournament was blighted by a lack of interest and was even boycotted by many. It was clear to me in the autumn of 2018 that ‘DC’ was not a happy man and this was being reflected in the team’s performances. I spoke to Darrell privately on more than one occasion and it was obvious that he felt let down over promises of a new stadium and, more importantly to him, a new training ground. He told me that he had signed many of his squad on the promise that these would come to fruition within a short time but that was clearly not happening. So it was then that one of our most successful managers departed the club with Rovers in a very precarious position – in a bottom-four relegation slot and with the poorest home record in the club’s history. Rovers’ then Defence Coach was appointed as Darrell’s replacement and Graham Coughlan immediately oversaw a massive improvement in results that culminated in not only avoiding relegation but in defeating the already promoted Barnsley in the final game which also saved Rovers’ home record from finishing as the worst ever! Hopefully this improvement will continue through the current campaign but meantime I must place on record my sincere thanks to Darrell Clarke for saving our football club from non-league and for all the exciting moments we ‘Gasheads’ have enjoyed in the last five years.

Once again we continued the Supporters Club’s sponsorship of the Youth Academy with roughly quarterly payments from the 50/50 Draw amounting to a total of £29,000 which included £6,000 towards the Development Squad. The Committee had promised this sponsorship to the Football Club at the start of the season based on our income from the draw during the previous campaign. However it soon became clear to us that poor home results and consequently lower attendances at the Memorial Stadium were not going to cover that commitment. In the end we raised a total of around £26K, with an equivilant payout to winners over the season, and we made up the promised balance from the club’s reserves. At most times these reserves stand around the £100K mark but it is worth remembering that we did, a couple of years back, commit £50,000 to cover the cost of equiping a ‘No.1 pitch’ at any new training ground that the Football Club might provide. So far this has not transpired unfortunately but the commitment remains in place for the time being! My thanks go again to all those fans who buy the 50/50 tickets on match-days.

Finally on the financial state of the club, the Committee took an instant and unanimous decision to sponsor the new Ladies football teams, who of course are better known as the ‘Gas Girls’, when these were reformed in the summer by Rovers Community Trust. It is fourteen years since the famous quarters first graced women’s football and we felt it was long overdue. Our offer of £5,000 to cover the set-up costs was most gratefully accepted by the Trust and we intend to take a full part in helping the girls develop from their base at Lockleaze – a wonderful facility that all Rovers’ fans should visit when they have a free Sunday afternoon. The Committee will connect with the girls through our Secretary, David Thomas, and full details of both the two County League teams and their matches will be made available on our newly revamped website.

Mention of that website and I think everyone who clicks on to it must be impressed by the improvements made thanks to Samantha Parsons and our web provider Weblake. The committee have spent many hours discussing all the changes and I know that Sam has spent even more time doing all the spadework so sincere thanks to her for all the effort put in. The new website also gives opportunity for members to sign-up and to purchase away travel and after some initial ‘congestion’ as we try to get everyone onto the database, whilst still complying with new data protection laws, things are already starting to improve as I write. Getting back control of our membership and travel bookings has been a top priority for the Committee and my gratitude goes to all those involved in some very complex work.

That same gratitude goes to those supporters who are still members of the Share Scheme which started way back in 2003. It’s amazing that nearly two hundred ‘Gasheads’ are still contributing to the scheme with very little reward to date. For those still paying-in I say many thanks because you have no idea how helpful the scheme has turned out and you have certainly not been forgotten!

I am sorry to say that, at the time of writing due to various reasons, we have still not been able to present trophies to three players who were successful in the Supporters Club’s awards for last season. The Player of the Year, by just one vote from runner-up Jack Bonham, was James Clarke. As it happens both players of course left the club during the summer when we had hoped to present trophies at the club’s annual open day. Unfortunately we were not able to agree this with the Football Club but I’m pleased to say that at least we got James’ replica trophy to him thanks to the efforts of Darrell Clarke and Club Secretary Dave Sams. James was very grateful for this and we were able to put his ‘thank you’ message into the programme and on social media. The others who were successful were Johnson Clarke-Harris for his ‘Goal of the Season’ against Plymouth Argyle, Alfie Kilgour our ‘Young Player of the Year, and Harry Warwick who was ‘Youth Academy POTY’. We are still waiting to present their trophies as we go to print and hope to do so one day at the training ground – not ideal to say the very least! Another departure from the Club was Rovers’ Padre, Dave Jeal, who the committee voted as our Clubman of the Year and at least we had the opportunity to present him properly on the pitch at the Memorial Stadium before the Accrington game. We will need to review the whole presentation business before the current campaign ends but the different needs of the Football Club do not make for an easy solution!

The Executive Committee has remained unchanged during the last year with Phil Draper, Sue Williams and Leanne Hawkins all completing a first full season in their new official posts as Vice Chairman, Treasurer and Travel Organiser respectively and all have performed admirably. I have received excellent support from all the Committee and of course from our small army of match-day volunteers during what has been a difficult year and my sincere thanks go to each and every one of them. We are always on the look-out for new people help run the club but meantime the membership can be grateful for those who do so now and, of course, give up their free time on behalf of Bristol Rovers!

Thanks for your continuing support.

Jim Chappell,