Bristol Rovers' proposed site for The Colony at Almondsbury, as pictured by Bristol Live last week(Image: Jon Kent/Bristol Live)

Big decisions at Bristol Rovers hinge on result of crucial League One vote

Huge decisions will be made nationally this week on how to conclude the League One season, and there are big calls to be made at the Mem too


Important decisions at Bristol Rovers have been deferred until the vote on how to end the League One season has concluded, with the outcome set to impact the Gas' training plans and player contracts.

The member clubs of England's third tier are due to decide this week on how the campaign, which has been on hold since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be concluded.

While the Premier League and Championship are set to resume the season some point this summer, Bristol Live understands the majority of League One clubs will vote to end the season immediately and determine promotion and relegation with a points per game calculation due to the costs a rigorous Covid-19 testing programme would cause without the income of gate receipts.

Rovers, who are almost certain to finish mid-table with little danger of relegation, are eager to play their final nine games to allow Ben Garner to continue grooming his squad and build foundations for next season – but with the vote still to be held the Gas are holding off on making plans for next season.
Bristol Rovers manager Ben Garner(Image: Arron Gent/JMP)

Besides the financial strain caused by the pandemic, the biggest issue facing president Wael Al Qadi and chief executive Martyn Starnes is determining a training base for next season.

The Gas have been training at The Lawns, home of Cribbs FC, but that deal is on the verge of expiring and Starnes, prior to the shutdown, was tasked with locating alternative options.

Several months on and a decision is yet to be made, with the unclear landscape across the EFL prompting justified hesitancy.

The club continues to assess locations, with an extension at Cribbs seemingly still on the table should Rovers need to return to training in the coming weeks for a resumption of the 2019/20 season.

Murmurs appeared online last week suggesting The Colony, a 28-acre plot owned by Rovers' parent company Dwane Sports at Almondsbury which has been earmarked as the club's future training ground, could be developed in time for next season.
(Image: Jon Kent/Bristol Live)

That project has long been on the backburner with the club failing to secure a new stadium, and despite the rumours there is no sign of building work and the chance of turning around a project of that size in time available appears slim.

The Colony has been used as a facility by Rovers in the past few weeks, but merely as an initial dumping ground for the grass and soil removed from the Mem due to schedules maintenance on the pitch.

Bristol Live visited the plot last week with three large piles in the middle of what remains an overgrown and underdeveloped area of land just off the M5.

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It appears much more likely the club will continue to lease a training base, be it at Cribbs or elsewhere, for next season, but a final decision will not be made until the result of the League One vote is known.

There are also pressing on-field matters for Rovers to address, with several first-team players' contracts due to expire at the end of June.

Club captain Ollie Clarke, Tony Craig, Liam Sercombe and Rollin Menayese's deals end on June 30, plus the loans of Jamal Blackman, Jayden Mitchell-Lawson, Timmy Abraham and Josh Ginnelly, leaving the Gas with several contract conundrums.

The usual date for clubs to publish their retained list has passed, but Rovers will not be publishing theirs until after the result of the League One vote is announced.

Should Rovers be told the season will not be completed, the Gas may be more comfortable with a slew of senior players departing with many free agents likely to be available across the EFL when the transfer window opens as clubs look to cut costs.

But if the move to resume the season as soon as possible – which is being championed primarily by the division's play-off contenders like Oxford United, Sunderland, Fleetwood Town, Portsmouth and Peterborough – wins more than 51 per cent of the vote clubs may be more minded to hand out extensions to ensure they have a suitable squad for the remaining games.