I appreciate this news is old by now and many of you will know, but Roger Bates has stepped down from his role with the club.
Roger has been tremendous for Lincoln City and I’ll drop on that shortly, but first here are his words from the press release this afternoon.
“I’ve always intended to take this decision at this time. When I retired from work at 55 I agreed with my wife Deborah that I would concentrate on football for five years, she would concentrate on her interests, and we’d take stock again with the intention of living a more retired life than a working one after that. We got to that point recently and I still wanted to do as we originally thought. So, it’s been something in my mind for a long time.” Roger said.
“Being a member of ExCo and Vice Chairman can be quite time-consuming, but we’ve got some really good people on the board with good ideas and things have progressed so far from where the club was. So, as well as being a decision I wanted to make, I feel it is a good time to step back too.
“I’ve been volunteering in football for over 20 years, with Caythorpe & Fulbeck Junior Football Club before Lincoln City, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Deborah has been massively supportive of me and now’s the time for us to do more things together. But although I’m stepping down from my position as Vice Chairman, I’m not leaving the club. I will still be a director and whilst attending as many games as possible.”
“Getting promoted to League One is definitely one (high point). In my lifetime we’ve only spent eight seasons in League One in total, so for us to be able to get back there and to establish ourselves this past season is fantastic. We felt we had momentum when we returned to the EFL, so to win League Two was great and really rewarding at a club level.”
“But personally speaking, the memory has to be taking the League Two trophy onto the pitch ahead of the team for the presentation following the Colchester game. To be invited to do that was brilliant and a huge honour. It is something that will be forever cherished in my mind, definitely.”
I personally first became aware of Roger by being handed a Ferret at a game in the late eighties, Dad having mistakenly bought it thinking it was a programme. Of course, much of the humour escaped an 11-year-old me, but it put the name ‘Roger Bates’ into my head. We first met properly at a dinner in 2008, around the time he started working with the board. I confess, we may have met before then whilst I was Poacher but I think if we had, outside of the suit, I’d know.
I’ve always had a great amount of respect for Roger, going from fanzine editor to senior figure on the board. It’s the sort of trajectory I aspire to. When I first picked up DF back in 2011, perhaps missing the point of a fanzine a little, Roger wrote a bit for it, praising our efforts. ever since then, I’d like to think we’ve been friends. I attended the January 2015 clash with Dover as a guest of Dave Parman and got to chat to Roger for a bit about life at the club, which I thoroughly enjoyed and have enjoyed whenever our paths have crossed ever since.
Roger approached me back in 2016 with an idea for a supporter competition which turned out to be the book On The Road With Lincoln City. I got to know him very well then and believe me, he’s one of the good guys. His passion for the club runs as deep as anyone and I always felt safe knowing that there was a fan of the club on the board. At a time when the Red Imps trust wasn’t in the best shape, we essentially had a rep who was ‘on of our own’, although he would never have branded himself that way. That isn’t Roger’s style, he isn’t outlandish, he’s considered and intelligent. Nothing he does is about himself, it is about the club. His work with the Future Imps Fund in 2016/17 helped keep the academy afloat and believe me, it was tireless. Roger always had time though, time for a chat about the game or about what might be happening at the club (not that he’d ever give anything away). It’s nice now that he’ll have time for Deborah and to enjoy life a little.
The club will be a little less well off for him stepping down, but having met Jay Wright virtually over a Zoom meeting recently, I’m sure we have the same passion and drive in our new vice-chair. I don’t ever think these figures consider themselves as replacing their predecessor, Jay wouldn’t want to simply ‘replace’ Roger because that wouldn’t be possible. No, instead we’ve seen a key figure in our resurgence step aside and now a new face is set to bring something different to the table. I suspect it was like when I took over at a builder’s merchant after a successful manager had left; I wanted to bring my qualities to the table, not simply pretend to be the guy who just left. Jay will have unique qualities which will be of benefit to the club and they will, inevitably, differ from those of Roger.
I just want to say a personal thank you to Roger, for everything. He’s been hugely supportive of my work for a decade now in various guises. I think as one of the first ‘fan media’ figures at the club, he truly gets what we are trying to do and has always been gracious enough to ensure he supports the site. He’s done other stuff for me too, little bits and bobs which I wouldn’t want to embarrass him by revealing (apart from helping to ensure I didn’t miss the Brighton FA Cup game, which would have made me cry), but on a personal level, I am incredibly sad to hear he’s stepped down, even though I know it is what he wants.
All the best Roger, thank you.