Bristol Sport, owned by local billionaire Steve Lansdown, is an umbrella style company which incorporates much of Bristol’s sport within it.
Similar to models abroad (such as Barcelona which along with football also includes sports like volleyball, and incidentally was the model that inspired Lansdown) Bristol Sport seeks to unite local sports teams and individuals under a common banner for the good of the city.
Lansdown, who now lives in Guernsey but make no mistake is a proud Bristolian, is incredibly passionate about local sport, which started with his involvement at boardroom level at Bristol City in 1996.
Now, the man worth an estimated $2.2 billion USD (making him in the top 1000 richest people on earth) is the owner of Bristol Sport encompassing: Bristol City FC, Bristol City Women FC, Bristol Rugby, Bristol Ladies RFC, Bristol Flyers (Basketball), Bristol Jets (Badminton) and Bristol Sport Racing.
Quite an extensive portfolio, is it not?
What remains to be seen, however, is whether this practically works as a sporting model.
Firstly, let’s run through the positives.
One quite substantial benefit is the very apparent community spirit Bristol Sport is engendering. One benefit enjoyed by Bristol City season ticket holders was a free match ticket to Bristol Rugby (and vice versa).
City fans who previously had no or little interest in Rugby Union supported their local team, and played their role in Bristol Rugby’s return to the top flight, the Aviva Premiership.
Season ticket holders of both sides enjoy discount at food and drink kiosks inside the stadium, as well as at the club shop, which itself is remarkable in the fact that it stocks football, rugby and basketball merchandise harmoniously.
This amicable feeling amongst players, staff and supporters can also be seen through the Community Trust and the various acts of charity work seen in Botswana, but also closer to home with fundraising for the Children’s Hospice South West.
The friendly vibe is not just limited to altruistic charity work, but a genuine friendship between players of the various sports sides. The sportsmen and women from all sections of the Bristol Sport family actively engage with and watch and support the other teams of the group.
This is particularly useful for the so-called “smaller” teams in the family – such as the Bristol Flyers, who often play in front of Bristol City and Bristol Rugby players – boosting the profile of their sport.
The fact that the Ashton Gate development is nearing its completion, and Bristolian sports fans can enjoy a 27,000 seater stadium with the finest facilities in the south west, is in no small part due to Bristol Sport.
Yes, Bristol City could have financed the construction work solo, but the revenue generated from a ground share with the rugby side has certainly helped the bank balance. You may have seen a video of England fans celebrating Daniel Sturridge’s winner versus Wales in dramatic fashion:
— Charlotte Gay (@CharlotteGay92) June 16, 2016
— Charlotte Gay (@CharlotteGay92) June 16, 2016
This is at the sports bar at Ashton Gate, which boasts the largest indoor screen in the UK – such facilities and such an atmosphere that Bristolians can enjoy because of Bristol Sport.
However, this is article is not simple PR for Bristol Sport. There are certainly downsides to the idea that are apparent now, and there may well be some that become apparent in years to come.
The main criticism that I can level at Bristol Sport, is that to some extent the model negates a club feeling, or a team identity. It’s just the little things, often in life, that make big differences. For example, Bristol City simply have ‘Bristol’ emblazoned on their socks rather than ‘BCFC’ or ‘City’.
The Bristol City and Bristol Rugby kit are both produced in-house by Bristol Sport instead of an Adidas or Nike, and you get the impression that Bristol Sport is in its own little world, very insular and even incestuous.
The football shirt even has hashtags such as ‘#makingBristolproud’ – it is hard to imagine a world in which Bristol City would have a kit with this message on without the Bristol Sport model.
Similarly in the Dolman Stand of Ashton Gate, the words ‘Bristol City’ were written in the seats, in the same vein that occurs up and down the country. Now, it simply reads ‘Bristol’. Is Bristol City sacrificing it’s identity for the greater good of Bristol Sport?
Secondly, the question must be asked is does this sort of model propel a fair distribution of financial support, and do all sections of the family contribute evenly to the kitty? Bristol Rugby is a top flight rugby club and will require more financial support (in all likelihood) than the Bristol Jets badminton side.
This is okay though – Bristol Rugby generates more money than the Jets through larger attendances and TV money.
However, the Bristol Sport Racing team will generate little hard cash for the overall kitty, and will only really act as an advertisement for the cause as Dino Zamparelli’s Porsche Carrera is dominated by the Bristol Sport logo.
Here is the problem though, Motorsport requires a serious amount of fiscal backing, but will contribute relatively little in return. Is this fair to other members of the sporting family such as the Bristol Flyers or Bristol City WFC and Bristol Ladies RFC? Possibly not, is the answer.
In conclusion, Bristol Sport is still very much in its infancy, and any judgement now would be without the benefit of hindsight. For the most part, it does seem to be working now, fans of the sporting sides get along with one another, and they will soon enjoy fantastic facilities.
However, the Bristol Sport family has not yet faced a serious challenge, and with some members potentially receiving disproportionately more money than others it remains to be seen how much longevity Bristol Sport will have.
Featured image: All rights reserved by RobbieJBarratt