09th May 2011
Bristol bids to bring International RL to the South West
100 years ago this December, Bristol City FC’s Ashton Gate stadium hosted its first and so far only international Rugby League match – a game between the touring Australian Kangaroos and the West & Wales, which the tourists won 23-3.
Now a consortium from Bristol, headed by representatives of the growing local Rugby League community, have declared their intention to bid to host matches in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, which is being held in England and Wales.
The initiative has come from within the South West Rugby League community, spearheaded by ambitious Bristol Sonics club, and is supported by a wide range of partner businesses, local government agencies and sports organizations in the region.
Bristol’s professional football teams, Bristol City and Bristol Rovers, are fully behind the plan, with Bristol City’s new stadium and the Memorial Stadium being considered as potential host venues. Filton College has been put forward as a base for a team training camp.
Both Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council have also joined the bid consortium, alongside the WESPORT Sports Partnership and tourism marketing body, Destination Bristol.
The announcement of Bristol’s intention to bid to host matches in the 2013 World Cup comes at a time when Rugby League in the city is enjoying rapid growth and a surge in popularity in schools and local community clubs.
The city’s leading Rugby League club, Bristol Sonics, begins its ninth summer season on Saturday, 7th May. The Sonics will this season run two open-age (adult) teams in the Rugby League Conference, as well as six satellite junior clubs dotted around the city.
The Sonics have recently announced details of a pioneering partnership with Filton College. The further education institution recently appointed its first Rugby League Academy Coach, former Oxford University and Harlequins youth coach Dan Garbutt, and is partnering with the Sonics to explore the possibility of a professional team in Bristol within the next five years. Filton is already preparing to host the Kenyan Olympic team in 2012 at its state-of-the-art WISE campus, and the Bristol Academy of Sport is the headquarters of both professional basketball and women’s football.
Bristol recently hosted the first Southern Counties Rugby League Championship, and last year staged the European Touch Rugby Finals at Filton College. The Bristol 2013 Rugby League World Cup bid is the next step in an ongoing process of attracting high quality sporting events, and in particular Rugby League events, to the city.
“This is a fantastic development for the profile of the game in the South West”, said RFL Regional Manager, Joe Catcheside. “We already have a growing number of Bristol schools playing rugby league, and the city has one of the largest Touch Rugby competitions in the UK. Bristol Sonics are the most successful club side in this part of the country, and hosting a World Cup match would be a true reflection of the growth of Rugby League as a local sport in the South West”.
Bristol Sonics Chairman and founder member Phil Cole, an enthusiastic supporter of both Bristol City FC and international Rugby League, said: “It would be a dream come true for me if Bristol City’s new stadium or even the Memorial Ground hosted matches in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. The sport in the city is growing rapidly, and there’s even talk of a professional club one day. League is a sport that’s on the up in the city, and I’m delighted that the Sonics can play a part in trying to bring the sport’s biggest tournament to Bristol.”
This is the first time the RFL has used a formal bid process to determine its host venues for a World Cup, and the evaluation is based upon the levels of support and development activity planned in the prospective host cities, as well as a technical consideration of the facilities available.
Although there has been no cost involved in bidding for the Rugby League World Cup, successful cities stand to benefit to the tune of several million pounds through ticket sales and sponsorship, increased inward investment in sports development, and through the tourist spend in hotels, bars, and other local attractions.
The evaluation process will begin with a site visit towards the end of this month, followed by a consultation period over the summer. If Bristol is successful, the announcement will be made in autumn, and will signal the start of a programme of events and activities to consolidate and develop rugby of all codes and forms right across the city and its wider region.