Those of you that know me will understand why I follow the fortunes of Bristol Rugby. It’s because I grew up close to the Memorial Stadium (where they play), went to a local school where some of the pupils ended up playing for the team, a general love of sport in general and rugby in particular.
Bristol have been under performing for decades now, lingering in the second tier of rugby for too many seasons. The news that Steve Lansdown (of Hargreaves Lansdown fame) is investing in the club is great news. His business rationale seems to be to get back to the Premiership, get crowds of 10k+ per game in the new Ashton Gate, so that the team becomes self-supporting. When you consider the numbers of people playing rugby in and around Bristol, this has to be achievable surely.
I must admit to being worried. Firstly, the last time we had a big backer – Malcolm Pearce, his patience with funding the club waned over time, as he was left to single handedly fund the club. Bristol crowds proved to be fickle, if we were performing well, then they came. The moment our form dipped, they stopped coming. You can’t blame them of course, but getting to the magic 10k must mean a large number of season ticket holders – the committed ones, not the fickle ones. The question I am left asking myself is why supporters are so fickle, and whether a long term commitment to top flight rugby will mean that things change.
I am also concerned by the move to Ashton Gate (south Bristol) from the Memorial Stadium (north Bristol). I think the vast majority of Bristol supporters will make the move of course, and the move from our traditional home is one we must bear as we have to move with the times. Ever since we lost the ground to Bristol Rovers, this day was coming. I would have preferred a move to the UWE stadium, but understand the business rationale for the move.
On the positive side. A new Director of Rugby in the experienced form of Andy Robinson is great news, along with five new signings from Premiership teams. This will generate a much more positive attitude at the club, and will no doubt lead to the promotion the club desires.
I can’t wait for the playoffs and hope that somehow we manage to fight our way through the laughable playoffs and get back into the Premiership next season. If not there is always next season.