Sharing Our Ground & One Team In Bristol
By Bristol Boy
I was glad the hear Steve Lansdown talk about the emotion factor involved in ground sharing. Anybody thatís a businessman first and not a football fan will question two things:
Why havenít we done it before & why are there two teams in Bristol anyway? Whatís the point?
17,000 people from a catchment area of over 1,000,000 can be bothered to attend Ashton Gate & The Memorial Stadium to watch third and fourth rate football. 'Where is the demand for two teams and two stadiums?', any businessman would ask.
Of course, if he was a football fan as opposed to a supporter, he might just suggest a merger, assuming as a lot of people with no idea about local rivalry foolishly do that, if Rovers or City failed to exist, all those fans would follow the other club. You know, just like if Rangers folded all the fans would support Celtic!
Let me say for the record that Iíd follow Arsenal before I followed Bristol Rovers, particularly as my family home is around forty five miles from The Emirates and I can do that in an hour by train & tube. I could drive to Reading or Villa in half the time it takes me to travel to Ashton Gate, so a trip to watch fourth rate football would be even less appealing. The trouble is, the same thing would apply if I lived in Horfield!!
Thatís the bit the pragmatists and logical thinkers canít comprehend. They do it in Italy, you hear them say, at giant clubs like Roma/Lazio, AC Milan/Inter etc. I know mate, but they always have, itís part of their culture and those grounds are more akin to a Wembley type venue than Stamford Bridge or White Heart Lane.
Of course, it makes sense from a financial point of view. There are one or two practical issues such as the need for a pitch like Wycombeís that can stand up to continual use and that would benefit all of those playing on it at around £250k including under soil heating.
As a more minor note, I always think that the pitch markings make those used for both codes look tatty and washed out.
Now letís look at Emotion or, rather, try to feel it and put it in context. I donít think that many City Fans would have an issue with Bristol Rugby sharing the ground as long as the practical issues Iíve mentioned were resolved prior to that happening. People who have Premier Club Membership at Swansea can watch The Ospreys one week and The Swans the next at no extra cost, so that makes that corporate offer more affordable, more attractive to prospective purchasers and I have heard that the cost of tickets are shared on that basis. Very sensible.
As for the Gas coming to our home...thatís a different matter and it would probably be better for all concerned that they relocate, as before, to Twerton Park. They only have 5,000 crowds in Horfield so how many realistically are going to travel to Cheltenham or Swindon?
I have had two phone calls today with reference to organising a petition to stop any such sharing and itís only been on the website for a few hours.
When this has been even mentioned previously, it has caused a furore and a backlash that will make the reduction in season ticket renewals in The Williams after the installation of The Premier Club, seem like a walk in the park, may follow, particularly if promotion isnít achieved.
Here are some ideas that may solve a problem before it starts and some that would canvass opinion from all sections of our fans
1.Assuming that we are promoted, Ashton Gate should be packed to the rafters against Rotherham, with full houses for Forest, Swansea & Yeovil, virtually a given. Why not put a Red or White Card about a foot square on every seat (Sponsorship would do this at nil cost. Then, five minutes before kick off with most fans in their seat, have a vote if a/ The Rugby Club & b/The Rovers should share.
2.An entry poll could also achieve the same. Two Questions:
a.Subject to practical issues such as the pitch being improved, would you be in favour of a groundshare with:
3.Write to Season Ticket holders, Supporters Club members, Supporters Trust members, City Foundation members and also hold an online vote (Excluding Gasheads who join just to vote, somehow) thatís assuming theyíd want to come and Iím sure many of the 5,000 who regularly attend would rather play at Bath or Cheltenham. We could even poll the entire club database of, I believe 40,000.
We have seen with the East End that what seems a simple practical issue on the face of it, can snowball into something that becomes the epicentre of many fans support and will cause division between fans and club. There is a feeling amongst certain sections of our support that they are neither valued or listened to.
Meetings like the one the Trust organised with concerned parties over the East End are the way forward and the honest feelings expressed at that meeting displayed an openness & willingness from both sides of another emotional subject.
Take the emotion from football and base it on practicalities and places like Ashton Gate & The Memorial Stadium would be even emptier on a Saturday. As Iíve said above, itís easier for me, as a football supporter to travel to twenty other clubs, all above City in the League-But Iím a City Fan, always have been and always will be. When people capture and understand that emotion and the emotional capital I and thousands of others have invested in Bristol City, then perhaps that road to success, known as unity, can be travelled together.
The views expressed in this 'Soapbox' section are those of the author of each article and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bristol City Supporters Trust>