09.04.23 Wael Open Letter

Dear Gasheads,

I hope you are all well, having a very Happy Easter and enjoying the bank holiday weekend.

I have been keen to find some time to write to you all for a while, as I know it has been a long time since my previous update.

Heading into this first season back in League One, we remained ambitious; we wanted to continue to build on the successes of last season and do all we could to maintain momentum. The target at the start of the season was to consolidate in League One, whilst we continue to build towards our plans to reach the Championship.

That included an additional investment in the squad, which is full of young players as well as a number of assets that we have worked hard to continue to develop. This young group is developing well and plans are already well underway for next season to ensure that we can continue to improve and develop.

Since my previous communications, our latest set of accounts has also been released for the 2021/22 season. Going into the season, my commitment remained that I wanted to continue to invest in the team to give us the best possible chance of first-time promotion back to League One; this meant maintaining playing budgets and budgeting for additional losses.

Operationally, we overachieved against budget; however, bonuses attributed to the promotion led to an overall overspend within the end-of-year accounts. I remain committed to the club and continue to invest in helping us achieve our aspirations of promotion to the Championship. However, in order for us to be sustainable in the long term, we must improve our infrastructure.

Prior to the 19/20 season, in an interview with the BBC, I was asked about potential sites for a possible stadium relocation for the club and I mentioned we were looking at a potential site at the Fruit Market. A lot has happened since then, including a devastating pandemic, which was the biggest ever threat to the existence of our club, coupled with a bottom-place finish in the league and relegation back into League Two.

During those bleak times, I had to do all I could to keep the club alive through additional funding. There was also a lot of disunity within the club, with many operating through self-interest and not what was best for the football club. Due to this, a reset was needed and a new structure followed, with young leaders in charge and new processes put in place.

Despite putting a positive face on things and ensuring that my support for the club was unwavering, there was an undoubted impact on me from these times and all of the negativity that I had to face.

The Quarters came into operation during this period, providing us with club-owned training facilities for the first time in our existence, whilst also providing a top-level training centre for the first-team squad. Promotion followed as a result, in the most iconic way, and the club is now achieving record numbers across a number of departments as we continue to grow.

The new stadium subject has been the most important issue for Gasheads, and rightly so, given Rovers' history. I said that the club needs a new stadium when we took over seven years ago and, as I have not made any public announcements on the stadium's progress in recent years, I have been subject to a lot of criticism over that period. Some people have gone on record to say that my time at Rovers won’t have been successful if the stadium issue is not resolved, despite all that has been achieved during that time to make improvements to the way in which the club is now operating.

With that in mind, we were delighted with the news that was released regarding the stadium last week and that all the hard work that has gone on quietly behind the scenes by many different people over the last seven years is beginning to materialise.

As you may have seen, Conygar recently agreed to the purchase of land at the Fruit Market, which includes plans for a new stadium for the football club. We continue to be constrained on what can be discussed publicly on this; however, I would like to thank everyone at Conygar for all of their support on this so far, and we remain extremely positive about the progress that has been made in the background and the possible impact that it could have on this club for generations to come. 

The overall development of the Temple Quarter provides a great opportunity, not only for the club, but for the City of Bristol as a whole and we look forward to continuing to work with Conygar, and those within the Council, to bring this potential to fruition.

As I have always said, these projects take time but, hopefully, we are on the right track.

This is massive news for you Gasheads, news which you should rejoice and be excited about.

It is also a massive project which will need much more work, time, patience, effort and investment.

Despite the positive news on the stadium, we are still looking to pursue our plans for a new South Stand at The Mem. This stand is developing with a business plan to ensure that it is commercially viable within a likely timeframe for the stadium project to progress. We have the final drawings for this project and we are just finalising the terms and schedule with our partners, who are on course to deliver this in line for the new season.

These facilities will give us additional seating capacity, additional accessible seating and some new concessions to service those in the stand. We will be looking to operate this in a similar fashion to the current South Stand, expanding and reducing the away allocation in line with demand, to ensure that we can maximise attendance.

Beyond that, plans are continuing to progress at The Quarters for phase two of the development, with costs and proposals being developed and finalised for us to begin a planning application. Once information is available, we will share this publicly; however, it would include a significant improvement in the facilities available for the first team, the chance to move the Academy on-site and the opportunity to integrate community activities. As soon as we are able to, we will share more information on these plans.

As stated previously, we are already planning for the new season and, as part of our reviews, we are also looking into the Academy. Our ambition has always been to work towards Category Two status and we are currently reviewing what it will take to apply for this for the 2024/25 season.

We have also recently seen the release of the Government White Paper on football governance. We welcome the publishing of this paper and the intentions of its contents. As with anything, the devil will be in the detail; however, we remain positive that this could mark a change to make our game more sustainable, which can only be a good thing for football fans everywhere. A new financial model to seek fair distributions for clubs throughout the pyramid is key to these changes. We hope that the discussions between the EFL and Premier League can come to an amicable and mutually-agreeable conclusion.

Recently, we have also gone on sale with Season Tickets for the new season. Unfortunately, due to the various market factors increasing prices across the board, we have had to look to bring in a moderate increase in ticket prices for the new season. This wasn’t a decision that we took lightly and we made every effort to avoid these where possible. Sales so far have been superb and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the continued support that you give us and I look forward to seeing you all back at The Mem again soon.

I feel that the club has evolved to a place where we have the right team and experience, both on the football and administration sides of the club, and I would like to thank them all for their continued efforts in driving the club forward every day.

Looking ahead, in order to push forward with our progression, we must improve our infrastructure and the progress made at the current stadium, aspirations for the new stadium and The Quarters will lay the foundations for this club to be successful for many years to come.

I want to thank all Gasheads for their continued support and to thank everyone involved with Bristol Rovers.







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