Good grief: another mad story has emerged from “behind the scenes” at my old club, Bristol Rovers. The former Chairman, Geoff Dunford, the story goes, was not welcome at the annual Valentine Ball for what were, we understand, ‘political reasons’. I have no idea what these ‘political reasons’ were. My guess is that Geoff’s politics are not adjacent to the Conservative Party and that his favourite left winger was Mike Barrett rather than Michael Foot, but that doesn’t strike me as a particularly good reason to exclude Geoff from a night out.
As I understand it, Mr D has attended the previous 29 Valentine balls (I use the word ‘balls’ advisedly) and indeed paid for the privilege on each occasion. Either the club is now awash with cash and they no longer require Geoff to pay for a table (unlikely) or someone is being a little vindictive.
Geoff can now join the club of those barred from similar balls (sorry, here I go again) because some years ago I attended an Alternative Rovers Valentine ‘Do’ at Mangotsfield United’s Cossham Street facility by friends who suffered the same thing. Geoff may have committed the unpardonable sin of resigning from the board of directors but is that a reason for excluding him from the main (only?) Rovers social event of the year? The answer to that appears to be yes, obviously.
But wait a minute, Rick: haven’t you had the odd fracas with Mr Dunford over the years, the odd disagreement? Well, yes I have actually and I haven’t always agreed with everything that has happened at the club (which is the main reason I no longer attend games; more later about this), but – and whisper this quietly – I still like Geoff and I certainly respect the Dunford family who brought Bristol Rovers back from the dead back in the 1980s. In fact, Geoff’s late and great father Denis, who became a life president of the club (nominated for the post by the then director Kevin Spencer, I’ll have you know, the same Kevin Spencer who has now been banned from the club for life by Mr Higgs on the basis of a unique and refreshing interpretation of what telling the truth means. That’s why I don’t go anymore).
Oh, it must be a one-off. Someone has thrown a hissy fit and this will all be forgotten in due course. But no, there’s history here. Not only was Geoff not wanted at the Valentine’s Ball, he’s seemingly not wanted as a club Vice President either, which is strange since a director who serves for over five years is normally automatically chosen for the role. For example, aren’t Vernon Stokes and Bob Andrews vice presidents, as is Ann Craig, widow of Ron who served the club so well, including as chairman, for many years. Love him or hate him, Geoff Dunford has not exactly been some fly-be-night at Bristol Rovers and compared to the mess the club has been in under the dead hand of Nick Higgs, you might look back to his time at the helm as the good old days.
I am probably being hard on Nick Higgs here. I’m sure he’s not so vindictive, nor bearing of grudges, he might wish to see off any perceived, or more accurately imagined, opposition by simply barring and banning people. No one could be that mean-spirited could they?
Yes, I am sure it’s all an innocent mistake and Mr Higgs will soon move to get the board to ensure Geoff is made a Vice President. It would certainly remove doubts people might be having as to whether there were motives behind Geoff’s exclusion, wouldn’t it?