Bath City Supporters' Society statement in full, plus chairman Manda Rigby's response
The Bath City Supporters’ Society committee has today issued a statement in response to chairman Manda Rigby’s personal message to the club’s fans last week.
This expresses the “deep concerns” the Society has over Rigby’s decision to go public with her plans to sell Mayday Trust Park and move to a new stadium elsewhere.
The statement is published in full below, along with Rigby’s response to the points raised by the club’s largest single shareholder.
BATH CITY SUPPORTERS’ SOCIETY COMMITTEE STATEMENT:
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Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
As the largest single shareholder in Bath City FC, and a body which represents the views and interests of many of the club’s fans, Bath City Supporters' Society was concerned by aspects of an article attributed to the club’s chairman which appeared in the Chronicle on January 17, 2013.
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 directors of Bath City FC made a formal decision with regards the club’s stadium future, and at no time has the board endorsed a view that the club must “move or die”. The statements expressed by the chairman in last week’s paper therefore appear to be her own personal views.
Bath City Supporters' Society is open-minded on our club’s stadium 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 (including continuation at Twerton Park). Decisions need to be based on an honest and frank assessment of full evidence, and not on sound-bites in the local media.
It was also disappointing that the chairman used the Chronicle to complain in rather hasty language about a recent isolated instance of criticism she received from a small group of supporters.
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 brow-beaten 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. This is simply not the reality at Bath City FC, whose fans are acknowledged across non-league football as being well mannered, good natured and extremely welcoming.
Bath City FC is bigger than any single supporter, board member, player or chairman. Next year is the club’s 125th anniversary, and there is a duty upon everyone who loves Bath City to work together to ensure it can thrive for another 125 years. In recent months this has sadly not always been the case. A number of long-standing club stalwarts have either been pushed to one side or have withdrawn their involvement, whilst some genuine offers of help from supporters have gone unacknowledged.
The club at the highest level must build an atmosphere which reduces division and in which everyone in the Bath City family feels able and willing to contribute to the success of our club. And the club must communicate directly with supporters on issues of importance to them, rather than through the local media.
We have written directly to the chairman to request a meeting with her and her board to discuss these issues, and to make the case for a greater emphasis upon openness, communication and unity from within the club. Bath City’s excellent supporters deserve nothing less.
BATH CITY CHAIRMAN MANDA RIGBY’S RESPONSE:
The statement I issued last week was a personal one, I think I made that quite clear. 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. It was issued both in the programme and released to the website before it went to the media. We will always provide whatever information we can openly and honestly but, like any other company, there will be times when in the middle of commercial confidential negotiations, we are either bound not to do so, or it is not in the club's interest.
I have again repeated that it is a minority of fans who caused a problem but that 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, vast majority. I stand with the fans at every home match, answer questions on the forum, via Facebook, Twitter, email, many of whom are not members of a supporters’ group but with whom I have a direct contact and think I make myself as open as possible to any input or suggestions.
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 statement from the Supporters’ Society would be along the same lines so we could work together.
Of course, all genuine offers of help are welcomed but they have to be done with the knowledge that having an idea without being able also to put in the work is not where we as a club are at presently. As I try to learn from other people, any suggestion from anyone who has had a long-standing connection with the club has been run past those who have worked with him/her previously to see how likely a good outcome would be and I have consistently taken their advice about whether the good of the club would be best served by devoting scarce time resources to the proposal.
It is a shame that the Supporters’ Society has voted in a new chairman, so that he is "baggage free" - a move which I would have totally welcomed - yet his first act is to talk about the past, a past, which frankly, I don't recognise as being the case, and to criticise me without meeting with me and hearing the history of what has happened up until now. I hope that for the sake of the club, the new Supporters’ Society chairman is able to work with the board unshackled by a flawed view of where the divisions originated from over the past ten years in the first place. If he can do so, I also commit to wiping the slate clean of all the past bad experiences I have had with the Society.
I am of course open to having a meeting with the Society, in addition to the regular monthly meetings we already hold. Both [former chairmen] Geoff [Todd] and Adrian [Britton], to my knowledge, held meetings with them asking for more openness and honest dealings with them, begging them to work together for the good of the club. I have held numerous meetings with them as well but have never been able to crack it and it would be for the best of the club if we could.
To finish on a positive, what we wholeheartedly agree on is that the supporters of Bath City deserve the best - new supporters, old supporters, members of the club, the society, everyone who cares for the club. 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.