Wael Al-Qadi insists structural change at Bristol Rovers Supporters’ Club (BRSC) is required to repair the “breakdown” in its relationship with the football club.
Rovers’ owner has spoken out publicly for the first time on the long-running spat between the Gas and its supporters’ club, issuing an open letter to supporters in response to a statement from BRSC chairman Jim Chappell earlier this week.
Mr Chappell gave his side of the story on Monday, referencing Rovers’ plans to take the 50/50 draw in house after 25 years of it being in BRSC’s control and discussing a “shock” £50,000 demand to pay for facilities at The Quarters training ground.
“There are matters raised in the most recent statement from the supporters’ club that I and the football club considers to be incorrect,” Al-Qadi wrote in reply.
“Whilst it is not appropriate, in my view, to address these issues in a public forum in the manner that the supporters’ club has chosen to do there are some points that we must address so that the wider fan base can better understand the situation.
“Over the past 18 months the pandemic has cost the club £3million and in addition we have invested heavily to build The Quarters, a facility that we are really proud of. Added to that we have sadly had the added financial pressure that relegation brings.
“Despite this, as mentioned in their statement, the supporters’ club have raised an issue in relation to a proposed payment of £50,000 by them towards the training ground facilities. This was originally suggested to us by the supporters’ club which was approved by them at their meeting on the November 2, 2017.
“The supporters’ club claim that the training ground is ‘owned by a third party’. I want to make it crystal clear that I am the ultimate controlling shareholder of the football club and The Quarters, where the training ground is located. The training ground is not owned by a ‘third party’; it is ultimately owned by me. With phase one of the training ground now nearing completion, this payment would be very welcome.”
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Al-Qadi welcomed supporters’ club volunteers “caught in the middle” of the spat to hospitality at the Mem for Tuesday’s win over Oldham Athletic, and he hopes they will be back in their posts selling programmes and 50/50 draw tickets for the next home league game against Crawley Town on September 4.
BRSC is entitled to representation on Rovers’ board through its 3.5 per cent stake in the club, but the role has been vacant since the exit of Ken Masters last year, with the relationship becoming increasingly fractious.
But Al-Qadi – who says a BRSC member made “unsubstantiated” claims of financial regularity to the EFL – insists other matters must be resolved first before a new supporters’ club director can take their post.
Al-Qadi added: “I feel sad to write that the relationship with the supporters’ club has deteriorated to a point that without change to its structure and/or representation I believe it cannot operate in the manner that is mutually beneficial for our supporters and the football club.
“It is important that I put on record that I know the vast majority of people within the supporters’ club are hardworking and dedicated supporters that selflessly commit both time and effort in fulfilling the supporters’ club mandate of supporting the football club. We are and always will be, extremely grateful for this support.
“Despite the breakdown of communication, we have attempted to engage with the supporters’ club over the past year, to no avail.
“Back in April 2020, we understand that unsubstantiated claims were made to the EFL about financial irregularity, generated by a supporters’ club representative relating to the football club which was immediately dismissed. Despite contacting the supporters’ club requesting information to address any concerns that they had we did not receive a response.
“I was therefore extremely surprised that no supporters’ club representatives attended the club’s AGM on 28th September 2020 nor were any questions posed on the public fans forum that was held virtually in July 2020, to ask any questions or raise any concerns that they had.”