One thing we are very used to at Bristol Rovers is things going tits up. It’s happened so many times, especially in the recent past. When the club was running out of money in the early 2000s and went cap in hand to supporters, when the boardroom occurred split in 2006, leaving the modern, progressives on the outside, and the disastrous inept autocracy of new chairman Nick Higgs on the inside and now, it appears, a new crisis is unfolding under the new Jordanian owners. If you crave stability, look away now.
Personally, I’ve been worn down by it. I don’t use football forums or Rovers social network groups so I don’t follow much of the speculation and rumour that automatically morphs into fact by constant repetition. Having refused to attend matches when the petulant and spiteful Higgs banned a former director (and close friend of mine) for daring to offer “consistent criticism”, I hoped when he sold the club I would be able to resume simply enjoying the football. It hasn’t happened.
One sad aspect of railing against the football establishment over so many years is that my cynicism is deeply ingrained in my psyche. It did not require the intellect of a rocket scientist to work out very quickly the direction in which Higgs was taking the football club, in his case the National League. And so it came to pass. Having taken the club to the brink of administration, Higgs sold the club to the Al Qadis from Jordan. Immediate success followed, a double promotion which saw Rovers assume their historic position in the third tier of English football and our problems were over. Except that they weren’t and they aren’t.
If there is a crisis at the club, the frustration for many is that no one is going public. A weak, ineffective and apathetic local media, sits on its hands, happy to trot out bland interviews with players and the manager. The owners stay silent, trotting out cliches about how they are in it “for the long term”, whilst the talented young manager Darrell Clarke issues barely veiled digs at the owners for not giving him the tools to do the job. He’s the only one who is on the record about what is really going on. What a sorry state of affairs.
I lost friends when the club split in two a decade or so ago and I am determined not to lose more friends when and if the shit finally hits the fan in BS7, as I believe it will. I have learned that it is not a rewarding experience to challenge the status quo at Bristol Rovers because a combination of the establishment and loyalists will always stand in the way of change and will unify behind the owners, whoever they are. It is often good to have a healthy level of cynicism about the owners of a football club, whether they are seasoned supporters or overseas “investors”. Experience has led to me having man unhealthy level of cynicism to the detriment of my ability to support the club and even my mental health.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially at Bristol Rovers. And as ever, supporters are being treated like mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed shit.