Bristol sport is the healthiest its been for years. Fuelled by the largesse of local billionaire Steve Lansdown, Bristol Bears (as the rugby club was recently renamed) and Bristol City FC are performing on the field and bringing in substantial attendances. Both these clubs fall under the umbrella of Bristol Sport (an all-encompassing name that Bristol Rovers fans, the city's shaggy underdogs, bristle at).
The Bears are in rugby’s premiership, while Bristol City is a solidly mid-tier Championship outfit. The hope, according to Bristol Sport’s group CFO Gavin Marshall, is to have both professional outfits in the top flight soon.
Especially the football team, he added, given the astronomical payday provided by the Premier League. For both teams, these ambitions have meant substantial investment in players. Indeed, the rugby team boasts one of the world’s most expensive players in Charles Piutau, a hulking Kiwi full back.
City’s playing stocks have fewer superstars, but even at even Championship level players are highly paid, Marshall said. These high costs come alongside the big emotional pressure of professional sport. Fans, especially football fans, expect results and are fickle.
A couple of victories, you’re on top of the world. A few unlucky losses, there are protests at the stadium. These vagaries can make it hard to get a grip on organisational health, Marshall said. So he relies on his north star metric: attendance.
“Attendance is something that's very topical,” he said. “It’s closely monitored and very often discussed here. It's a barometer for everything else here. If we're happy with the figures, compared to our budget or prior years, that's a good barometer that our stadium spend is going to be okay, in terms of food and drink.
“And In terms of stakeholders and fans, it's a good sign that people are happy. What ticket prices we've set, the on-field performance.”