Kevin Spencer responds to radio interview by Bristol Rovers' chief
FORMER director Kevin Spencer has responded to claims made by Bristol Rovers chairman Nick Higgs when talking on Saturday about a decision to ban him from the Memorial Stadium.
Mr Spencer, who resigned from the board in 2006 following a bitter boardroom split, was handed a letter while at Rovers' last home game against Northampton on October 6, informing him he was banned from the venue in future.
The board issued a short statement last week confirming the exclusion order had been served due to Spencer's "continued criticism of the club and the board".
Mr Higgs, meanwhile, went into further detail at a Supporters' Club AGM at the Memorial Stadium last Thursday evening and, speaking on local radio before Saturday's game at Burton, the chairman made a number of new claims when questioned about the decision.
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Mr Spencer has agreed to respond to those claims in an interview with The Post, in which he also says that he would be willing to discuss the possibility of engaging in discussion to bring an end to the continuing feud .
Mr Higgs said in his radio interview that he had no regrets over the decision to ratify the exclusion order last weekend, despite days of controversy following the incident, and that an "olive branch" had been offered to Mr Spencer to talk about a possible return.
Mr Higgs also said:
That the order was issued "some time ago" and was only re-enforced last week because Mr Spencer had started to attend games after a period of exile.
In response, Mr Spencer said: "I have attended games at the Memorial Stadium over the last six years, although it is only since the start of the season that I have started attending regularly again. On the times I have attended games before the start of the season, I've actually spoken to directors and officials at the ground. On those occasions, there has never been any mention of a ban to me. I have since checked with the safety officer (Dave Harper) at the club to try to confirm whether or not he was aware there was any ban already in place, to which I was informed he wasn't."
Mr Higgs said:
That the order had been served because of statements Mr Spencer had made on an independently-run forum about Bristol Rovers which has no official affiliation to the club.
In response, Mr Spencer said: "My understanding was that the board's initial statement cited 'continued criticism of the club and the board' for my ban, but did not state where or when those criticisms were made. I have never denied that I use internet forums, and even confirmed this in my statement in response to the board's first justification of the reason for the ban."
Mr Higgs said:
That he had himself issued a verbal warning to Mr Spencer following a statement that was made in 2006 which was "untrue" and "libellous".
In response, Mr Spencer said: "I can't recall that. I know that Mr Higgs issued a warning to another director, but that wasn't me. As I recall it, that warning was issued to Mike Turl (ex-managing director) and not me. Mike Turl is willing to confirm this. I can't recall having any conversation with Mr Higgs over this matter at all and perhaps he is confusing me with Mike Turl on this occasion. I wonder when this conversation is supposed to have taken place?"
Mr Higgs said:
That another director instructed a solicitor to write a letter to Mr Spencer threatening legal action if any future statements were made that were "untrue" and "libellous".
In response, Mr Spencer said: "Who? I can't recall receiving a letter from any individual director, but I did receive a letter from the club some six years ago requesting that I refrained from divulging sensitive boardroom information. That request was of course complied with and no further correspondence has been received by me since."
Mr Higgs said:
That Mr Spencer was not "frog-marched" from the Memorial Stadium at half-time during the Northampton game after the exclusion order was handed to him.
In response, Mr Spencer said: "I've never said I was. I was handed the banning order and told to go and enjoy my half-time pint and to leave the stadium quietly when I wanted to. The decision of the board has generated a great deal of anger among Rovers fans and as a result many things have been said without my knowledge or agreement."
Mr Higgs said:
That he has no axe to grind with Mr Spencer and he has offered him an "olive branch" to discuss the possibility of a return to the Memorial Stadium in the future.
In response, Mr Spencer said: "I have been in correspondence with a director via email (last week), but my opening line in that email was that it was sent on a strictly personal basis and not relating to the ban. Unfortunately, this email is now being used as a stick to beat me with rather than an olive branch. I haven't received anything officially from Bristol Rovers Football Club offering me what could be used an 'olive branch' until Mr Higgs' offer on Saturday."
Mr Spencer said: "My viewpoint on the issue remains the same as it did when I issued the statement last Monday evening.
"I fully accepted the statement that the club issued last Sunday evening because my criticisms have been consistent. What I can't accept is the fact that they have now changed the excuse for banning me because the initial decision has not gone down to well.
"I now feel as though I am being used to step on for those decision-makers to get out of a hole. I want to bring an end to the matter and I would be willing to accept the olive branch Mr Higgs offered in his radio interview on Saturday.
"I am personally embarrassed and I am embarrassed for the football club by this publicity. Up until last Sunday, 75 per cent of the club's supporters would have had no idea of who I was.
"I just want to be a fan (albeit one not allowed to watch his team) and not be known to people as an ex-director. I now accept that this is not possible. I was quite happy to say no more about the matter after I issued my initial statement in response last Monday. But the justification for my ban appears to have changed so I felt that I had to respond.
"Again, I am happy to meet with Mr Higgs and will be very happy if things could be discussed in private from now on for the sake of the football club and its supporters."