Let’s get this out of the way straight off the bat. Bristol Rovers Supporters Club is outdated.
There, I said it. It’s run seemingly exclusively by people who are out of touch with most younger fans. The spat with the board and the Al-Qadis was quite frankly embarrassing, even before Wael paid off the club debts. Aside from the match-day volunteers and the Women’s team it’s hard to see what they contribute to the club, apart from consuming a decent portion of sandwiches in the executive boxes. But, and this is the important part, the problem is not necessarily terminal. So what needs to be done to save the SC? Here’s my thoughts on the matter.
A need for change
Cognitive diversity is an interesting phrase. It means, in essence, that people from a different backgrounds and with different experiences have different world views. I know, crazy idea right! For example a rovers fan such as myself, in their early(ish) 20s and who only started regularly watching the Gas in the 14-15 season, has a very different view of the Gas as someone who was watching the Gas from the Tote end in the seventies. With me so far? The issue is that if a group comes from a similar background, then the amount of cognitive diversity is a lot lower, which leads to Groupthink. Irving Janis coined the term Groupthink to explain why groups of people from similar backgrounds can make crap decisions, even when the clever decision was obvious. It leads to things like the Bay of Pigs incident, where John F. Kennedy’s administration failed to see the flaws in a planned invasion of Cuba. It can also be used to explain why a group of people who haven’t had an injection of new blood in over ten years a might think that suing the very football club they support was a bad idea. So how do we fix Groupthink? Well with cognitive diversity. So in the case of the supporters club this is achieved with a massive injection of new blood into the group, enough to substantively challenge the old way of doing things.
A new director for a new era
So what would a new director look like. Well the first and most simple answer is different to the old guard. The old guard have contributed a great deal to the club, that fact can never be taken away, they contributed to keeping the club solvent in the 2000s. But they failed to curb the worst excesses of the old regime (Wonga loan anyone) and have appeared outright hostile to the new owners. The leaking of confidential information by certain members of the supporters club to certain ITKers was at best annoying and at worse detrimental to the success of the club.
A new fan director should hopefully have a better relationship with the new board. That shouldn’t be hard to be fair. But whomever the new director is, they should hopefully be able to foster a good relationship with Tom Gorringe, who has been one of the best things the Al-Qadis have done in the last 4 years. However, that does not mean that the new fan director should act as a rubber stamp for the board. Ken Masters and co were notorious for approving everything that the Higgs board put to them.
The new fan director has to stand up for the views of the majority of fans and reflect that to the board. That means that any new fan director needs to be accessible to all of the fans, not just the members who’ve been there since the Eastville days. They need to be in the bars before the game, they have to be in the queues for food at half time, they have to be approachable. Now I’ve met Rovers fans and that can be a daunting prospect, many of them can’t agree on anything. So the new fan director has to be able to sort the facts from the noise. They need to be able to seek out the real issues that concern fans, and discern what are just the general moans of a fanbase.
A daunting task certainly, I’m glad I’m not the one who has to do it!