The outcome of today’s judgment is clearly a disappointing outcome for the club and a kick in the teeth for Bristol – but we remain 100 per cent committed to building a new stadium to secure the club’s future. While we note the legal basis for Mrs. Justice Proudman’s decision, the club is likely to pursue an appeal against the judgment and considers that it has strong legal grounds for doing so.
The club considers that it was abundantly clear throughout the case that Sainsbury’s reneged on its promises to the local community to invest in the region and showed a flagrant disregard for the terms of the contract. Although the Judge did not ultimately hold Sainsbury’s to the contract, this decision turned on a technical drafting point and she nevertheless concluded that if it had not been for the delay in obtaining a satisfactory planning permission for the new Sainsbury’s supermarket (which the Club could not do without Sainsbury's consent), the other conditions in the contract would have been completed before the termination date. We consider that Sainsbury’s acted in bad faith and did their utmost to stall the purchase at every possible juncture. For instance, the Judge found that Sainsbury’s could and should have engaged with local councillors and objectors during the planning process and kept the club informed of progress, which they did not do.
The way in which Sainsbury's has conducted itself, repeatedly pledging its public support to the project (not only to the club but also to local MPs and Councillors) having already privately decided to pull out, encouraged the Club, UWE and both Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils to expend significant amounts of time and energy in connection with the plans to build the new stadium and ultimately left the club with no option but to sue Sainsbury's to keep this plan alive. The judgment makes it clear that Sainsbury's desire to terminate the contract was apparent from the summer of 2013.
Bristol Rovers is a fantastic football club, with a proud tradition and a fan-base envied by dozens of clubs higher up the football league, and which deserves a home that is fit-for-purpose.
We will continue to devote a significant amount of our time and efforts towards delivering this. The club will now consider all options, of which there are several, before making a decision on the next step. As we have already said, this is likely to include seeking permission to appeal against this judgment.
In the lead up to and during the High Court hearing, the workload, pressure and emotional toll on the members of staff who were most closely involved, was at times overwhelming. We thank them all for their hard work.