Mark McBurney (Aka Fordingbridge Pirate) speaks out in his first Vital Gas article, good to have you on board Mark.
As this is my first (of many with any luck) article for Vital Gas, I thought I should probably start by introducing myself and telling you how you come to be reading some of my thoughts.
Starting in May 2005, I was (or at least am, I’ve yet to be ‘retired’) a regular contributor for ‘The Pirate’, a publication that was once thought of fondly amongst a vast number of Gasheads but the mention of which evokes thoughts of anger for many nowadays.
Now unlike the stories of messrs Slade, Johanssen and Hodges I have not been removed (so far) from the programme, however I – along with thousands upon thousands of you – am growing increasingly frustrated at the antics of the people in charge of what I used to think of as ‘my’ club.
I say used to because I’m sad to say that thanks to the people at the top of the tree at Bristol Rovers, I just don’t get that kid-ish excitement about a match day that I always used to, even into my twenties. They say that some men never grow up, and I believe that this sentance is never truer than when you consider how many of us feel about the team we support.
Up until recently I always looked forward to trivial things like the fixtures being published, or the launch (or even first glimpse) of a new kit. Counting down the days until the new season began throughout the barron summer months used to be a regular past time.
However, thanks to recent developments from within, I feel as if I am reaching the end of my tether as far as being an ‘active’ supporter goes.
I feel as if the board have constantly misled us (or at best been monumentally incompetent), the supporters and lifeblood of any team.
First we were sold the idea of a new South Stand, supposedly somewhere that the Bass/Blackthorn/Tote End faithful could relocate to and enjoy modern facilites rather than the somewhat dated amenities that we currently have.
Then we were sold the idea of a brand new stadium, a place to finally call our own and be proud of so long after leaving Eastville. Modern, family friendly and an attractive place for the fairweather fan was the idea that we bought into and started to get excited about.
Then came hitch number one. Due to planning constraints we were to stay at the existing Mem for, initially, six months and work would commence some time around Christmas 2007.
Along came hitch number two that meant that we would see out the 2007-08 season at the Mem, to share with Cheltenham Town (after the board had indicated that a possible – and logical – share with Bristol City was on the cards prior to actually agreeing anything) from the start of the 2008-09 season.
Then, the knockout blow.
On the eve of an open day at Whaddon Road – and after some 450 season tickets had already been sold – a story was broken by this very site that there was a somewhat major announcement on it’s way that would mean we would be staying at the Mem.
True to form, Lenny was spot on and we had the announcement that Opal had pulled out of funding the student accomodation for the new stadium – a deal upon which the whole planning consent depended.
We now find ourselves in the unenviable situation of looking ahead to the start of a season on a pitch that will need a total relay to get anywhere near professional standard, as well as still being no closer to the promised training centre at Filton that was started years ago and is now considered too bad for even junior sides to play on.
The one common denominator amongst all of this, and the main reason for such ill feeling toward the board, is the apparent couldn’t-care-less attitude of the men at the top of the pile.
Had it not been for this website, potentially we could have had a situation whereby hundreds of fans had made the trek, at great expense, to Cheltenham and purchased season tickets that would have been a total waste of time.
So what do we get from the board about this? Not even an apology – they even have the gall to be angry at Lenny for breaking the story in the first place.
And then, incomprehensibly, they announce that season tickets will rise back to the prices offered in 2007-08. It really beggars belief that these people supposedly think they are doing the best for the football club.
Sorry if this seems like one long rant, but I am a person who has neither been a pro or anti board person throughout the past few seasons and Rovers Agenda For Change, largely because I didn’t know the full facts about the whole situation.
If ‘we’ are not careful, BRFC will alienate more and more supporters until each and every young kid in Bristol will grow up to be a Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool or even worse, Bristol City fan.
And what then? Well just this week SPL side Gretna have gone out of business north of the border. A scenario that is not impossible for us should gates drop, as predicted to sub 5,000 on a regular basis, and with the level of debt that the club has.
So with that in mind I’ll finish with a plea.
For the sake of the long term future of the club, messrs Dunford, Higgs, Ware, Bradshaw and Craig – do the decent thing and resign, NOW.