Bath City Supporters' Society's "deep concern" over chairman's ground move warning
Bath City Supporters’ Society has expressed its “deep concern” over chairman Manda Rigby’s decision to go public with her plan for the club’s future last week.
Rigby insists City – facing debts of around £700,000 – must leave run-down Mayday Trust Park for an income-generating stadium elsewhere in the city in order to stay afloat.
The Society, whose 16.73 per cent stake makes it the club’s largest single shareholder, says it would back such a move as long as it was convinced all other avenues – including the redevelopment of the site in Twerton – had been exhausted.
But it also believes that long-standing supporters and offers of help have been cast aside by Rigby during her 18 months at the helm and has called for a united front as the club battles for survival.
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Rigby’s personal statement – which was first published in the club programme for the 2-0 home defeat to Bromley on January 15 – featured on the both front and back pages of last week’s Chronicle and attracted plenty of interest from other media outlets.
A statement released by the Society this morning read: “The relocation of Bath City FC from Twerton Park would represent one of the biggest decisions our club has taken in its history.
“It is therefore deeply concerning that, as the single largest shareholder, we had to learn of the chairman’s ‘move or die’ assertion via a media statement rather than directly.
“We also understand that at no point has the board of made a formal decision regarding the stadium’s future, and at no time has the board endorsed a view that the club must ‘move or die’.
“The Supporters’ Society is open-minded on the stadium’s future. Any proposal which involves keeping the club within the city of Bath will be seriously considered by us on its merits, and in consultation with fellow supporters.
“We expect the club, in turn, to provide full disclosure of the rationale behind any relocation proposal they may make and all alternatives that have been ruled out.
“Decisions need to be based on an honest and frank assessment of full evidence and not on soundbites in the local media.”
The Society believes Rigby’s statement – in which she highlighted the “poisonous negativity” from some quarters that has blighted her tenure – misrepresented the club’s loyal hardcore of fans.
“It was disappointing that the chairman used the paper to complain in rather hasty language about a recent isolated instance of criticism she received from a small group of supporters,” the statement continued. “The reality that we recognise within Bath City FC is not reflected by words such as “poison” and “abuse”, and their usage on the cover of the Bath Chronicle is deeply damaging to both the club and its supporters.
“Given the poor on-field performance of Bath City over the last 18 months, the chairman should not be surprised if some fans feel frustrated. But that should not be exaggerated in such a damaging manner and nor should supporters feel browbeaten against expressing their opinions.
“It is unclear why the chairman felt the need to resort to such language. Any attempt to undermine potential opposition to a stadium move by pre-emptively suggesting the presence of a core of troublemakers would be unacceptable.”
The Society also issued a rallying call to everybody connected with City, imploring the “family” to pull together ahead of the club’s 125th anniversary next year in order to ensure it prospers long into the future.
It has requested a meeting with Rigby in a bid to heal the “divisions” which are threatening the club’s chances of fulfilling the board’s three- year plan, published last summer.
In response, Rigby issued a second statement, welcoming this opportunity but rejecting the Society’s claims that she had not consulted its representative on the board, Shane Morgan, about the contents of her message.
“The statement I issued last week was a personal one, I think I made that quite clear,” said Rigby.
“However, it is wrong to say that the board has not agreed that a move, rather than a renovation, is the only current way forward as this was discussed and agreed.
“In the plan issued over the summer, it again was clear that the two options we were exploring were renovation and moving. This follow-up said that renovation was no longer an option, so this wasn’t something that should have been a total shock.
“The Supporters’ Society representative on the board – who has been present at all formal board meetings since appointment, including the one referenced above – also received a copy of my proposed personal statement ten days before it was issued and, indeed, it was changed in the light of his feedback.”
Rigby, along with head coach Lee Howells, will answer questions from the fans at a meet the manager/chairman evening at Mayday Trust Park’s TR Hayes Lounge on Thursday, January 31 (7.30pm).
She added: “It is a minority of fans who caused a problem but neither I, nor anyone else, should be expected to receive or tolerate abuse rather than criticism – and I stand by that.”
“I agree that the majority of fans are brilliant and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support I have received from the vast majority.
“I’d say 95 per cent have been completely positive, understanding where we are now, trusting that as soon as we can say more, we will, and completely distancing themselves from those who are just negative and critical no matter what I say.
“I had hoped that the Supporters’ Society statement would be along the same lines so we could work together.
“What we wholeheartedly agree on is that all supporters of Bath City deserve the best. I am very grateful that, post my statement last week, a lot of people have acknowledged that I was willing to be shot as the messenger in order to get the message out.
“If anyone has an alternative to moving, now is the time to state it.”