Club President Wael Al Qadi updates supporters on an array of topics in his latest Open Letter...
I know I have only written to you recently but I felt compelled to do so again.
As an owner of a club the responsibility is immense. You are not only responsible for the safeguarding of a community asset but you also have to do the right thing by your players, staff and supporters.
When the pandemic first struck back in early 2020 nobody knew what to expect or that we would still feel the implications so strongly today. Throughout this period football has provided some respite, escapism and normality for fans across the world, despite an ever changing and restrictive backdrop. However, it really is a miracle that we have made it to this stage without fans returning.
At the start of this, along with owners up and down the country, I committed to doing what I could to fund the club through this crisis. I have made no secret of the fact that this pandemic has posed the single biggest threat to this club since its formation, as it has to the majority of clubs throughout this country and beyond.
Notwithstanding the revenues received and the incredible support you’ve provided, the financial effect of this pandemic has hit hard. Based on current season ticket holders, the cost of the pandemic in a self-sustaining world would mean that every season ticket holder would have to contribute close to an additional £1000.00 on top of what is currently being generated for us to simply maintain our current operational position. This is a financial burden that I am happy to bear to protect our club but I hope that brings into focus the stark reality of the situation we have found ourselves in.
Without the owners up and down the country continuing to fund their clubs to help ensure they get through these times we undoubtedly would have lost teams by now. But we must all continue to work together to protect our pyramid.
Football is a game of emotions and opinions, so understandably when things aren’t going right owners take the criticism. However, I think it is only right that as we approach the end of the season that we pay tribute to all those owners and shareholders that have continued to invest their money to safeguard their clubs and maintain their place within our communities.
Unlike other industries there have been no grants from the government. After a short break on payments to HMRC we not only had to pay our on-going commitments but also repay the amounts that had previously been deferred at the outset of the pandemic. This, despite the fact that we are still without supporters in the stadium and the usual match day income streams. We were able to obtain some limited relief from the furlough scheme but with the players and coaching staff returning to work at the end of July even that assistance was no longer available to us to any significant degree. As you may also be aware, the EFL made a loan provision available to clubs, but this isn’t an option that we have taken up because of the conditions attached.
One thing that the past year and the past 24 hours has reminded us is how vitally important our supporters are to us. We are lucky to have such a large and passionate fanbase and without your support we wouldn’t be here today. Your support throughout the season and even now has been immense. We know that many of you will have experienced your own difficulties throughout the last year but your support has remained constant despite our struggles on the pitch. That is the measure of a fan base and the definition of support. We will be forever grateful for all you have done over the past year and next season we will need you back in the Mem, getting behind the team and supporting the club. Now more than ever.
Yesterday afternoon news broke of the European Super League. It goes without saying that, like the majority of clubs and fans throughout this country and Europe, this club fundamentally opposes the plans put forward by the clubs involved. The impacts will be felt throughout the football pyramid with damaging effects on our league and cup structures.
Ultimately, football in this country has been the people’s game for generations. The foundations are built on the principle of hope that any team can rise through the ranks to compete at the highest level. These proposals completely destroy that hope. The chances of Rovers earning a big cup tie at Old Trafford or Anfield are diminished. A team like Leicester or Forest will no longer be able to over-turn the odds. It is heartbreaking.
Despite, the emergence of these proposals, I have no doubt that should they continue to progress that we will survive. Why? Because in the past the club has overcome adversities due to our fans and community standing by the club.
Being a foreign owner, you often get accused of treating your club as a play thing as opposed to caring deeply about the club, it’s supporters and the game as a whole. I can honestly say that this club is special to me. Doing the right thing for the club and our supporters matters and supporting our community is vital.
To that note, I was delighted that our Community Trust was recently announced as the winners of the Community Club of the Year for the South West in the EFL. We are delighted to be working so closely with them to help all those in need within the community and the award was greatly deserved. A special mention also to Alex Rodman who despite what has been a difficult season for him personally due to injury and illness, has also been recognised as the PFA’s Player in the Community award for League One.
Everything we have been through is a reminder of what this club means to us all. There is nothing like having you all at the Mem supporting the team through thick and thin. Meeting with friends and family, being passed from generation to generation. Together, we will continue to represent you, your community and the City of Bristol with pride and passion.
I appreciate that it is a difficult time given that our league status remains undecided but we will soon be reaching out to ask for your commitment for the new season. There is never a right or easy time to do this and we are under no illusions that our current league position and the effects of the past 12 months will have an enormous impact.
However, before the details are published I wanted to put it in writing that my commitment to our club, this project and to our ambitions remains absolute regardless of how this season finishes. The ambition is to reach the Championship and although this season may see us take a step backwards in that goal, our ambition to get there remains constant. For absolute clarity our budgets and investment in the team will continue at competitive levels, whichever league we are in with the aim of promotion.
In addition, our backroom team is working tirelessly to continue to improve our processes and ticketing operations to ensure that we are providing the best possible service to you. There are a number of announcements and updates due shortly to this affect.
Furthermore, I know that some of you may hold some concerns about returning to the stadium. However, I wanted to assure you that we are working closely with the local Safety Advisory Group to ensure that your return for the new season is as safe as it can be.
We will bounce back from this. We will unlock the full potential of this club. But we can only do it if we stick together.
So, let’s get behind the boys for the final games of the season and give them the best possible chance of securing our status in League One. Stay healthy, happy and positive and I look forward to the day where we meet at the Mem again.
Thank you all for your continued and unwavering support.