Without the support and the backing from our sponsors, making an impact in our community becomes incredibly difficult. Every penny that comes into the club is re-invested into providing football for women and girls within the local area. Whether it’s facilitating free football sessions for girls or improving our infrastructure, every penny makes a massive difference in our community. When the re-launch of the ‘Gas Girls’ was announced, Bristol Rovers Supporters Club were instantly willing to help and have continued to be incredibly supportive during our first season. We spoke to David Thomas who has attended virtually every match this season and has a keen interest in our progress.
GG: Hi Dave. I suppose the first thing to address is the cancellation of the League with the whole season being null & void. What were your first thoughts when you heard the news?
DT: Although the news wasn’t entirely unexpected it still felt like a bolt from the blue. I was expecting to hear of an indefinite
postponement but declaring the whole season null and void seemed awfully harsh especially as the season could be finished in eight weeks which is exactly the same time frame the EFL have given themselves with their 56 day intentions. But I am just a fan. I feel for everyone who has represented the club so magnificently this season, to be just one win from securing the league title in their inaugural season is a tremendous feat and every single one of our girls has lost out on one or maybe two medals which they thoroughly deserved. I also feel for Nathan, Abbie and Mavis who have set the club up, planned everything and coached the girls so well; to have to do it all again next season must be a very bitter pill to swallow. But having said all this, everyone is safe and in a position to go again next season and that is more important than the result of any football match.
GG: As Secretary for the Bristol Rovers Supporters Club and a massive supporter of the newly launched Gas Girls programme, what have you enjoyed about the new partnership with the Club?
DT: Once the Supporters Club had agreed to sponsor the project I felt it was important that we were seen to be the sort of sponsor that doesn’t just hand the money over and fade into the background. Bristol Rovers Womens’ FC paid us the huge honour of putting our logo on the first team’s home shirts and I was determined to repay that. I was extremely fortunate that the girls play their home matches at Lockleaze Sports Centre which is actually walking distance from my home. It has been fascinating to be in at the start of a project and watching it grow and evolve. I have made friendships through being involved with the project and have forged excellent relationships with a lot of the girls who are all first-rate ambassadors for the club.
GG: It’s safe to say that the support and sponsorship from the BRSC has been instrumental in the running of the Club from day one. Why do you feel that the members wanted to support the Gas Girls from the off?
DT: The Supporters Club already sponsor our Academy and Development Squads and when Ken Masters came to one of our committee meetings and informed us that the womens’ club was being set up and would we be prepared to sponsor it, the answer was easy. Through Ken we get to hear a lot about the fantastic work of the Community Trust and have a huge respect for Adam and his whole team. The original brand of the “Gas Girls” were held in great affection by all Rovers fans and seeing
them start again seemed like a massive wrong being put right.
GG: The Club may be in its infancy but there’s an obvious determination to grow this Club are far as it can. Can you see the potential and the possible progress that can be made in the season to come?
DT: It was a real race against time last summer to hold trials, select squads and put a couple of teams together in time for the big kick-off. There simply wasn’t time to plan for the club and I believe there is huge potential for the club to grow, the sky really is the limit. The women’s game in this country has come an awful long way and a lot of football fans were hooked on the World Cup last summer and with the Euro Finals heading to England 2022 we could be approaching the golden age for women’s
Progress through the leagues is vital especially for our first team but it is also important that our Development side players have a clear pathway into the first team; a healthy number of them had run-outs in the first team this season and I think I am right in saying that none of them let anyone down. Adding age group sides is also important and giving them a pathway into our Development squad would only strengthen the club. An additional bonus would be that this would aid recruitment onto the Community Trust’s BTEC programmes which benefits all of us. I feel we also need to do some work in finding out who comes to support our girls on the wind-swept roof at Lockleaze. I must admit I know who some of them are but certainly not all of them. How can we encourage more people to come and watch? Well better weather of course would help – it must be drier next season. Setting up a Gas Girls Supporters Club/ Group could help (free to join). Having the ability to mail them newsletters and match-day programmes and Rich’s excellent photos may make them feel more connected and more likely to come and watch.
GG: And finally, what has been your main highlight of the season?
DT: You’ve certainly saved the hardest question until the last! There have been so many highlights to pick just one. The game at Merthyr is certainly one. Seeing the dream and all the planning turn into reality was quite something. I had picked a couple of the girls out at the trials and seeing them both start at Merthyr was very pleasing. After all these years watching football it
seems I did know something about football after all! The girls desire to be part of Bristol Rovers has been pleasing to see too; their support of our quiz nights has been very much appreciated. On the pitch the 95th minute winner against Longwell Green has to be the highlight; I had never given up hope that day but as a Rovers fan you learn to live on hope. Some of the
football has been an absolute pleasure to watch; some great goals have been scored both individual efforts and team goals. Watching Rosanna on the ball has been a delight but I don’t like to single any of them out, they have all contributed. Seeing the progress Shannon has made, both as a footballer and as a person has been a real highlight and underlines what the
Community Trust is all about.
(reproduced with the kind permission of Bristol Rovers Womens’ FC)