Lucas Swain

New Life For Football in Bristol

Lucas Swain looks at the underachieving nature of football in Bristol and how things are improving for the sport in one of England's largest cities.

Lucas Swain looks at the underachieving nature of football in Bristol and how things are improving for the sport in one of England’s largest cities. 


In a country where football is so widely loved, it’s expected that every major city in England has a successful football team, or at least were at one point. This certainly applies to London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and a number of other English cities, but Bristol has always just fell short when it came to hitting it big.

Both Bristol Rovers and Bristol City have struggled with their endeavours of reaching the top of England’s football pyramid; Bristol Rovers have never been higher than the 2nd division, with Bristol City dwelling in the lower leagues for 35 years and counting.

With an estimated population of nearly 450,000, there’s great potential for a Premier League football side. Whilst both teams currently sit far away from the riches of England’s top division, it’s the long term goal they are both currently working towards, and there are positive signs.

The closest to achieving the goal is Bristol City, who are on course for promotion back into the Championship. After being relegated to League 1 two years ago, it looks as if the Robins will soon be in a pole position to fight for football success.

This season marks a positive one for Bristolian football, off the back of some gloomy years which saw relegations for both sides. For the first time in their history, Bristol Rovers fell out of the Football League after being relegated to the Vanarama Conference on goal difference.

The relegation hit the club hard, who weren’t prepared for the sudden plummet. Nobody could believe what was happening when the Pirates failed to retain their place in England’s 4th tier.

Labelled as ‘too big’ for the division, Rovers are currently finding themselves bouncing back exceptionally well. Averaging crowds that almost double the league’s next best, the rampant support is driving the club on.

But these aren’t just the forward steps both of the clubs are making, they’re also undergoing stadium plans to improve the current stadia in Bristol – something both clubs have needed for a number of years.

Bristol City, redeveloping their current home Ashton Gate, are set to increase their capacity to 29,000 after starting work on their ground. Meanwhile, Bristol Rovers are currently in a legal dispute to sell their current home to Sainsbury’s, despite obtaining planning permission for their new residence, UWE Stadium.

Both on and off the pitch have plenty of positive signs for both clubs, but one exciting development for the city is Bristol Sport, who are seeking to inspire success throughout a number of clubs.

The company, owned by majority shareholder of Bristol City Stephen Landsdown, has an element of control over a number of sports teams in Bristol across basketball, rugby, football and women’s football.

Landsdown is seemingly building a sporting empire, as he looks to command shares and ownership throughout all the teams. However, it’s Bristol City with their stadium redevelopment, financed by Bristol Sport, who are reaping the benefits first-hand.

The company could be a great thing for the city, who are masterminding success for clubs across the sports. This season saw them craft the kits for all the sides they have influence in, eliminating potential deals with the likes of Adidas, Nike etc.

It’s the first time the city of Bristol has visually seen Bristol Sport’s influence on the clubs, and having acquired all but one (Bristol Rovers) of professional sports teams, the city’s inhabitants are merely accepting their presence.

This season is having positive influence on clubs under the Bristol Sport umbrella; with the women’s football team (Bristol Academy) making the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time, disposing of Barcelona; Bristol Rugby chasing promotion into the Premier League and Bristol City heading to Wembley for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

Bristol Sport could be the birth of something brilliant for Bristol, and if the progression continues at its current rate, it won’t be long before the city is finally recognised for its sporting success rather than its untapped potential.

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