Bristol Rovers humiliating and highly expensive defeat in their appeal court battle with Sainsbury’s is surely the final miserable act of the old regime. We can complain with some justification how Sainsbury’s allegedly ‘violated the spirit’ of their deal to buy the site of the Memorial Stadium, but on a point of law they’ve done nothing wrong.
One of the final pillars of the old and failed establishment, chief operating officer Toni Watola, gave a leaden-tongued response to the media, which will curry no favour with the judges who also refused permission to allow Rovers to take the matter to the Supreme Court. It’s over, Toni. The old guard, of which you were an integral part, messed up.
The Bristol Post reports that the club now “faces enormous legal costs bills”. This is not the problem it would have been prior to the welcome takeover of the club by at Al Qadi family, but is surely an indication of the mess the club would have been in had they not emerged from Jordan. Just in time. We may never know the depths to which we may have sunk – administration, maybe? Worse? – but it seems to me that the very decision to appeal in the first place, thanks to a huge Wonga-type loan, would have left the club in an incredibly vulnerable position. The overused statement from members of the previous board that “there would be no Bristol Rovers” without them seems pretty rich today. The new owners have stated, thank goodness, that the building of the new UWE stadium is no longer dependent on the sale of the Memorial Stadium and I, for one, am very grateful for that.
The change of the guard at Bristol Rovers happened some weeks ago and today’s verdict feels like a glum reminder of a darker day, when the club seemed like it was held together by sticky back plaster and run by the principles of boom and bust. It was the final act of Ragbag Rovers before the arrival of a modern, dynamic and, God forbid, professional group of people at the top of our club.
There is no guarantee that there will not be further roadblocks down the way and problems to be confronted. That’s the way of the world. But I am as confident that I can be that the new owners and officials will deal with them in a far more competent and transparent way than we are used to.
There may still be those who have their doubts about the club’s new owners but the entirely predictable outcome of the court case will surely convince them that whatever happens in the future can’t possibly be bad as what came before. All the evidence to date suggests that the future is very bright.