26 October ~ One day at the end of August officials of Bromsgrove Rovers of the Zamaretto League South and West Division (three levels below the Conference) entered the Victoria Ground, the club's home since 1910, and removed fittings and equipment. For good measure they also took the goalposts at the Town End of the ground. The ground's owners, Bromsgrove District Council, await return of the keys. Not that council officials needed keys to gain access as the main gate had been left open in a final act of spite. Inside they found a scene of dereliction. Rubbish had been dumped in various places and the overgrown pitch appeared to have been deliberately damaged. Clearly Rovers had no intention of playing football there in the new season.
The background to this was the council's decision not to renew Rovers' lease but to grant one instead to the newly formed Bromsgrove Sporting FC. Sporting declared themselves open to a ground-sharing arrangement but received no formal approach from Rovers. In the absence of required assurances the league formally expelled Rovers on August 11. The club remains in administration, and liquidation seems inevitable.
This should have been a year of double celebration – of 100 years at the Victoria Ground and 125 years since the founding of the club in 1885. Much of the club's history was unremarkable but the Southern League Midland Division championship in the centenary season of 1985-86 marked the beginning of their greatest years.
Managed by former West Bromwich Albion midfielder Bobby Hope, Rovers won the Southern League in 1992 and gained promotion to the Conference. They were Conference runners-up in their first season and twice won the Conference League Cup. In 1994 they reached the FA Cup third round and lost unluckily to Barnsley. These were remarkable achievements on limited resources. Unfortunately such limits prevented the club holding onto their best players and this was a major factor in the club's relegation in 1997.
Rovers' subsequent decline was rapid and further relegations followed in 1999 and 2001. However it was off-the-field matters that caused most concern as the club experienced several changes of ownership and persistent financial difficulties, narrowly escaping winding up on more than one occasion. The new century was a time of stagnation on the field and dwindling support off it. By the end of 2009-10 crowds were down to below 200.
It was the decision of the administrator to reject a bid for the club from a supporters' trust that led to the formation, by lifelong Rovers supporters, of Bromsgrove Sporting – who were admitted to the Midland Combination for 2010-11 and successfully applied for the lease of the Victoria Ground. They hope to move in by the end of November after remedial work has been completed. As Bromsgrove Sporting take their first tentative steps in the lower reaches of the pyramid, Bromsgrove Rovers pass into history. Rovers gave much pleasure to generations of Bromsgrove people – they deserved a more dignified end. Peter Bateman bromsgrovesporting.co.uk