Why Stadium Deal Was So Wrong By Nick Rippington
BRISTOL ROVERS dodged a bullet when they pulled out of the deal for a new stadium.
The more I learn, the more I believe the club could have been fatally compromised by agreeing to the terms that University trustees were demanding for a joint venture on their land near Frenchay.
Everything, I believe, was stacked in the University`s favour.
And while many Rovers fans were under the impression we were getting our very own purpose-built stadium, the way I understand it the arrangement would have been little different from when we rented Eastville from the Greyhound Company.
In fact, if just a few things had gone wrong there was a good possibility that we would have been dumped out on our ear with no alternative home to go to, having already offloaded the Mem.
The sticking points on which the University wouldn`t budge included things like security for games and revenue from external events like Conferences, concerts and even car parking. It was imperative to the club that they would have control over these things if they were to develop from ragbag Rovers to a self-sustaining football force.
If anything, rather than blame the board for another so-called 'failure`, we should be glad they were looking out for our long-term interests rather than being swayed by a short-term rise in popularity.
It`s an interesting paradox, because while the previous owners had been Rovers supporters long before the Al-Qadi family had even HEARD of the club, it seems glaringly obvious to me that the old regime were prepared to gamble our entire future in a bid to regain some kudos with fans.
The more I look at it, the more I think the Sainsbury`s decision to pull out of the Mem deal was a blessing in disguise.
Scrutinise the decisions Nick Higgs and Co made towards the end of their reign and you have a roadmap which could only have led to catastrophe.
I recall writing a blog for the Bristol Post after we dropped out of the Football League saying that I felt alienated from the club I had followed for nearly 40 years.
The more our stock fell on the pitch, the more a wedge was driven between those in Box One and those spending their hard-earned cash to watch pitiful fayre on the pitch.
Rather than erect a new stadium, day by day they built a wall between themselves and the fans. Life-long supporters who didn`t share their views were barred, a popular fans online forum was shut down and the deafening demand for answers was ignored.
When the Sainsbury`s decision came through, they were even prepared to risk everything and take out a high-interest loan - like the type you see advertised on daytime TV - to continue a fight that many felt had already been lost.
Darrell Clarke, who I admit I criticised early in his reign, helped reignite my love affair with Rovers by guiding us back into the Football League but that might have been a short-term fix had the ownership not changed.
For Darrell, at least, we can thank Mr Higgs - and there is one more significant thing, too. Like other owners who have fled sinking ships, he could have sold us to the first cash-waving charlatan that came along. Instead he handed over to owners many have come to trust and respect.
If anyone doubts the Al-Qadi family have given us our Rovers back, look at this weekend as a case in point.
As I stood on the Northampton terraces overcome with emotion as we rattled in our sixth goal I looked a few feet to my right to see our president Wael Al-Qadi dancing a merry jig.
He could have quite easily been with his chairman in the directors` box but chose instead to share the moment with fans on the terraces.
Later, he caught the train back to London, not in first class but with those same supporters, happily discussing the match and his long-term plans.
Anyone witnessing that would find it hard to question his commitment to the club and his desire to take it in the right direction.
The new owners are pragmatists, not dreamers... and for that I am grateful.
For while dreams take centre stage when we belt out Goodnight Irene, sometimes it`s nice to wake up to a healthy dose of reality.
Nick Rippington is a national newspaper journalist based in London. He is also award-winning author of UK gangland fiction thrillers Crossing The Whitewash and Spark Out
Crossing the Whitewash - HERE
Spark Out -HERE