We might not move to Ashton Gate, says Bristol Rugby chief
CHRIS Booy has insisted no decision has yet been made on where Bristol Rugby will play next season – and revealed there remains "a very strong chance" they could stay at the Memorial Stadium.
The formation of Bristol Sport Limited – essentially an umbrella organisation for Steve Lansdown's sporting interests, Bristol City and the rugby club – has increased the likelihood they could play under one roof at Ashton Gate from next season.
But Booy, chairman of the rugby club and a member of the BSL board, said it was far too early to make a decision on where Bristol will play in 2013-14.
Booy, pictured, is due to hold talks with Bristol Rovers chairman Nick Higgs later this week, where the possibility of Bristol remaining at their spiritual home, which is now owned by Rovers, will no doubt feature high on the agenda.
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"It has been implied that we're going to Ashton Gate from next season – that is absolutely not true," said Booy. "The decision is not made – and I think Steve has laboured this point.
"We've not made the decision – there are so many variables that it wouldn't be sensible to make the decision at this stage. When the variables start to close down, then we'll make the decision.
"Are Bristol Rovers going to move, or aren't they? Are Bristol City going to get planning permission for the new stadium? If they don't, what happens as a result of that?
"There's also the pitch debate: clearly, there's a substantial investment in making the pitch suitable at Ashton Gate, and when would you do that? Also, what league we're in, because we'd have to make a decision on where is the best place for us to play and get promoted and then stay up, which would clearly be a big challenge.
"Those are all variables and it's great to have options, assuming Bristol Rovers still want us to stay there – and they have given us all the positive indications that they are very happy for us to stay, which is great.
"I speak to Nick often and I'm meeting him this week, and we have a good relationship.
"From the rugby club's position, it's great we have options, and what Steve and I have always said is that we will make the best decision for the rugby club."
The rugby club would be reluctant to leave the Memorial Stadium, given they have played there since it opened in 1921, but Lansdown and Booy have several factors to weigh up before making a final decision.
With Rovers due to leave the Memorial Stadium for a new ground in the near future, Bristol are likely to have to find an alternative at some point, but one dilemma for Lansdown may centre on whether it is worth investing heavily in a new playing surface at Ashton Gate with City also hoping to move to a new stadium.
"There is no decision made at this point on where we will be playing next season or going forward," said Booy. "I think there is a very strong chance we could still be playing at the Mem.
"Steve and I have to have discussions, with each other and with Bristol Rovers, but it's a wide-open debate because of all those variables – and we need to start closing those down and make a plan.
"In reality, where we play is not the significant issue for Bristol Sport – but it could well be later if we're getting large gates. We're not ruling anything out – we're being honest with everyone – but we have not made a decision, and it's not sensible to make a decision until later."
Booy also ruled out the possibility of the rugby club's staff being relocated to Ashton Gate, claiming there is "absolutely no way" that would happen.
"There is absolutely no way we will move staff – we have a long-term lease at our training ground, and the detailed work will be done close to the players, both at Ashton Gate for City and at Clifton RFC for us," he said. "There is absolutely no plan at all to move staff to Ashton Gate.
"The reality is that this holding company is purely about financial and business management."