Bristol Rugby chairman Chris Booy: We will soon have biggest and best club rugby stadium in England
CHRIS Booy believes that Bristol Rugby will soon be playing in the “biggest and best” club rugby stadium in the country – regardless of whether they end up at Ashton Gate or Ashton Vale.
The Post today revealed that Bristol’s long-term future lies in a ground-share with Bristol City – with whom they share a common majority shareholder in Steve Lansdown.
They will play either at a new site at Ashton Vale, the building of which remains subject to an inquiry, or at a redeveloped, 26,000-capacity Ashton Gate.
And chairman Booy is targeting Aviva Premiership rugby to match the top-flight facilities they will be able to offer at either Ashton Gate or Ashton Vale.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
“I know it will be difficult for those who like to stand at our games to contemplate having to sit down,” said Booy.
“But I hope they stick with us, because this is a crucial step for us to get this club back into the Premiership and back to being one of the best clubs in the country.
“And the reality is that we will be playing in the best rugby stadium in the country, whichever one it is – Ashton Gate or Ashton Vale.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact we will be playing in, without doubt, the best stadium in the country and also the biggest.”
Either a revamped Ashton Gate or a 30,000-capacity new stadium at Ashton Vale would be bigger than the Madejski Stadium in Reading, home to London Irish, which is currently the biggest stadium in the Premiership.
And Booy said Bristol would be investing in their squad as a further sign of their Premiership intent.
“This is part of our plan to get into the Premiership,” he said. “We clearly have a desire to do it and we are going to invest more funds to secure that goal – and we hope to do that as soon as possible.
“A new stadium is one way to attract new players – if we are trying to attract Premiership-standard players then we need a quality stadium for them to play in.”
Bristol Rugby have effectively been in limbo since losing the Memorial Stadium to Bristol Rovers when they ran into severe financial difficulties in 1998.
They have since rented the ground back from Rovers – but Booy said they would be City’s “partners” rather than their tenants.
“With both clubs having a common majority shareholder in Steve, there are obvious economic benefits of playing in the same stadium,” said Booy. “And we will genuinely be a partner in this new stadium, whereas we are a tenant at the current point.
“Going into the new stadium, whether it’s at Ashton Gate or Ashton Vale, we will be equally represented and we can develop that stadium for Bristol City and Bristol Rugby Club. All of that makes it a no-brainer for us.
“A lot of people will be disappointed about leaving the Memorial Stadium – and so will I. It has been our spiritual home for almost a century.
“But the key thing is that it’s no longer a viable option. Bristol Rovers are moving – and ever since some of my predecessors lost the ground it was inevitable that a time would come that we would have to move out.
“We have a great relationship with Rovers – I spoke with (chairman) Nick Higgs and briefed him about this, and he fully understands.
“Nick is great but if someone else had come along we could have been out – that is the reality of being tenants. But with sharing a joint majority shareholder, it gives us a lot of comfort and, in reality, it secures our long-term future.”
Booy is mindful of the need for Bristol to be in the Premiership by the time they move to Ashton Gate or Ashton Vale – not only for the sake of finances but also the atmosphere.
The match-day atmosphere at clubs such as London Irish has been criticised for being sterile, with those inside the stadium regularly being outnumbered by massed rows of empty seats.
And Booy said: “We are confident that, in the Premiership, we could comfortably get 10,000-12,000 initially – and as we become more successful that could become 15,000-20,000.
“And, if we become a top four side again, which is our aim, then we could sell out Ashton Gate as we have done in the past.”
Bristol’s contract to rent the Memorial Stadium expires at the end of next season – and, if the Ashton Vale plan is rejected later this year, they could move into Ashton Gate as early as the 2014-15 season.