Bristol Rovers Chairman Nick Higgs could barely hide his disappointment today of the decision of the High Court to rule in favour of Sainsbury’s, meaning they are not obliged to go ahead with the purchase of the Memorial Stadium.
“The decision is a huge disappointment and a massive kick in the teeth for the football club and its supporters, as well as for the wider Bristol Community,” he said before adding; “I think we have been let down big time.
It would appear, though, that the club is likely to appeal against the decision announced this morning.
“The initial legal advice we have received is that there are very strong grounds for an appeal and we will be discussing that course of action with our legal team later today.
“All I can say about the possibility of an appeal is that there are inconsistencies in the judgement and, while we respect the Judge’s opinion, I think people should read the judgement and reach their own conclusion.
“I feel that we have no choice but to challenge the decision because if we don’t, then we would be letting the club down.”
Nick added that he felt that the supermarket chain had reneged on the contract.
“As chairman I feel that we entered into a contract with Sainsbury’s and there have been a number of breaches of that contract. A decision has been made on one technical element of a clause which has been inconsistently recorded in that judgement, so I don’t feel culpable. We have done everything within our power to bring the club a new stadium to offer sustainability to this club.
“Clearly we can’t stay where we are. We can’t keep losing money every year, as there is a limit to how much money people will continue to put into the club as long as we remain at the Memorial Stadium, so we have to find a sustainable outcome which means a new stadium.
“The ruling has gone against us but we do feel there are grounds for appeal and, as I’ve said, we have been advised that we have very strong grounds for making a legal appeal.”
One of the interested parties the Chairman will be making contact with very quickly will be UWE. He was unable to do that until the judgement had been made public, but hopes to establish a dialogue with them very soon.
“It’s always a possibility that UWE might say they have had enough, but we will be discussing today’s outcome with them and our other partners within the next few days.
“We will be asking them to hang in there with us as it’s not over yet. We have looked at a number of other options to still bring this new stadium to fruition, even without the help of Sainsbury’s, and we will continue to do that.
“We have an obligation to explore options and it would be remiss of us not to do so for the sake of the fans, and for this club.”
With regard to the possibility of other investors coming on board, the Chairman said; “We have no one interested in coming in and taking over the club at this point in time, though it’s been well documented that we have spoken to a number of different people over the last 12 months. To date, however, no one has come in with an acceptable offer.”
Nick also said that Darrell Clarke’s playing budget will not be affected by today’s decision; “It’s not affected at all. The manager was given a budget at the start of the season and that won’t change, but will be increased if we are in the right place at the right time later in the season. The playing budget has always been a separate issue, and always will be.”
It came as little surprise that he felt badly let down by the decision; “It feels as though we have been kicked in the teeth and I also feel for our supporters and our other stakeholders because they have all put in a tremendous amount of work on our behalf and I am thinking here of Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, UWE, The Elected Mayor and local MP’s.
“I think Sainsbury’s have let down Bristol in a huge way. They have used the big corporate umbrella to hide behind and walked away from Bristol and left the city the loser at this point in time.”