Bristol Rovers & 'Fake' News By Nick Rippington
I NEVER thought I would write the words Bristol Rovers and Donald Trump in the same sentence, but if there is one similarity between the two it is the fact they are both being plagued by fake news.
With the advance of social media, more and more pieces of invention are being blindly touted as fact.
Look at the New York Post, for instance, who reported that Colombian drug baron El Chapo had declared war on the terrorist organisation ISIS after an important shipment was destroyed in the Middle East.
El Chapo blasted: "My men will destroy you. I pity the next son of a wh*re that tries to interfere with the business of the Sinaloa Cartel."
Except he didn`t. A short while later The Post admitted they had fallen for a hoax invented by a satirical website.
So what has this got to do with Bristol Rovers?
Well, Rovers fans critical of the current Board treat any press releases the club send out these days as fake news.
They believe that having failed to push through a deal to build a state-of-the-art stadium in collusion with the University of the West of England (UWE), the Al-Qadis can no longer be trusted.
When president Wael Al-Qadi marked the second anniversary of their takeover by insisting the current Memorial Ground would be revamped and a new training facility at Almondsbury would be up and running by the summer of 2019, he was met with howls of derision.
However, while there are inevitably questions Wael and the board need to answer, there is also another "truth" that needs exploring, one that seems to have been accepted by plenty in the Blue and White quartered ranks.
According to those 'In the know`, the facts over the UWE collapse are undisputed. The scenario goes like this...
Everything had been agreed, all that was needed was a signature on the Rovers side for the project to go ahead.
At the last minute the financial bigwigs behind Rovers decided that they wouldn`t get a big enough return on their investment and pulled the plug.
The decision had nothing to do with Wael Al-Qadi, who is a puppet with no control over the finances, but by his brother Hani, who doesn`t even like football.
The current board made a mistake buying the club - believing they would make a quick killing - and are now seeking a way out.
Well, maybe that`s all true. But until the West Country equivalent of Panorama launches a full investigation into these "facts" I am not prepared to take them at face value.
For a scheme to fall down like UWE, I am sure there would have been a number of other factors in play conveniently left out of this scenario by those who peddle it.
Who, I wonder, is the original source behind these "facts"?
Is it someone 100 percent trustworthy, a board confidante involved in every stage of the negotiations?
Or is it a person with a hidden agenda - a UWE trustee or someone associated with the original negotiations, still seething with jealousy after watching "rookie" owner Wael carried shoulder-high down Gloucester Road after we won promotion from League 2.
With social media these days, someone with an axe to grind can just light the blue touchpaper and stand well back.
The one thing I find impossible to comprehend is what those who continually bash the board are trying to achieve.
Is their end-game to oust the Al-Qadis, who paid off our huge debts, and hope there`s a billionaire just around the corner, maybe Bristol based, ready to step in, build a new stadium and take us to the Championship? If there is, he`s been very quiet for the last 50 years.
Or is the idea is to "shame" the Al-Qadis into back-tracking and re-opening negotiations with UWE, even if they aren`t happy with aspects of the deal?
In my view, that`s a non-starter.
What I do know is we need to be careful what we wish for. The Al-Qadis may be reluctant to splash the cash but there are plenty of sharks in the waters who would love to take over.
In more than 40 years of sports journalism I`ve seen them some of them up close.
Wrexham had an owner who wanted to sell the Racecourse ground and turf the club out into the wilderness, Swansea were 15 minutes from destruction and had to plead for their existence in the High Court while Cardiff were 24 hours from insolvency after building their stadium. Thankfully, Vincent Tan rode in to save the day - even if he did make them wear red!
Someone recently said that if people hadn`t complained the Berlin Wall would never have come down.
So now we`re comparing the Al-Qadis to the Stasi, are we?
Let`s be honest, I don`t believe one brick of that wall was removed by a group of keyboard warriors sat safe in the comfort of their own homes.
Whatever the fake news and whatever the truth, I am sure of one thing. If we ever do need to find new investors I would back the approachable Wael to get us a better deal than a bunch of negative moaners.
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.
To find out about either book click these links...
Crossing the Whitewash - HERE
Spark Out -HERE