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Bristol’s Clifton Rugby Club announces ambitious business expansion plans

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Written by:   | Posted 28-April-2014 15:04

Bristol’s Clifton Rugby Club announces ambitious business expansion plans

The oldest rugby club in Bristol is working on ambitious expansion plans as it looks to secure a prosperous future and push on up the national leagues.

Clifton RFC has a vision that would create a multi-purpose “community stadium” with a capacity of about 5,000 within three years.

If the plans come to fruition, the Cribbs Causeway club would have two new “3G” synthetic, all-weather pitches, a new cafe-restaurant and bar, gym and the clubhouse would be able to cater for conferences, hospitality and meetings.

Extended parking could be developed underground and to finance the vision, a four-star hotel and residential development could be built on the club’s 18.5 acres of land, which is no longer in a green belt.

Ideally, it would continue to be a training base for Bristol Rugby, be in a position to host Bristol cup games and provide the foundations for Clifton to one day sustain a club in The Championship – the second tier of English rugby.

The ambitions of the National Two South club were presented to members last Wednesday and had already been outlined to businesses and organisation on the Bristol-South Gloucestershire border, as well as Bristol North West MP Charlotte Leslie, who is fully behind the plan.

Talks with developers and a hotel have already begun and the next stage will be to get a feasibility study of the overall site done.

The coming years and decades will see a massive amount of development in South Gloucestershire, as Patchway, Filton Airfield and the Cribbs Causeway area continue to grow.

The rugby club is geographically very well placed – close to the M4, M5 and only 300 yards from the proposed Henbury link train station – to incorporate developments which could provide the funds to make their dream a reality.

(Picture top and above: Clifton Rugby V Bishop's Stotford. 28/09/2013)

Former Clifton chairman Sheridan Smith, left, who is now in charge of future development, said: “We have asked ourselves: what can we do to create a successful, 21st century rugby club model?

“It is highly ambitious, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to do something that would be good for the club, good for the residents who will be living nearby and to assist in building Bristol up as the great city for sport that it should be.”

As well as thousands of houses, a care home, primary school, GP surgery and community centre; a community sports stadium has been identified as something that should feature in the so-called Northern Fringe.

Clifton’s ambition is to develop a professional business model and year-round commercial operation to support its rugby plans while “offering so much more to the greater community”.

The ground currently gets at least 500 people watching every home game, with as many as 2,500 for bumper matches and the Bristol Combination Vase final it hosts every year.

The current stand only has 400 seats, meaning the ability to generate revenue is restricted, but a redeveloped stadium could have seating for 1,500.

With improved facilities and capacity, there could also be potential to host music events, trade shows and boxing.

(Clifton College rugby players in 1872-73. Many of these were the first Clifton RFC players)

Clifton RFC formed in 1872 and is the city’s oldest rugby club.
It moved to the current, Cribbs Causeway site in 1976.
Apart from general maintenance, very little has changed structurally, at the ground, since then.
The 1st XV is currently fourth in National League Two South – the fourth tier of English rugby – and is chasing a promotion play-off place.
The junior and minis section has more than 300 youngsters on the books and four sides are fielded regularly at senior level.
It is also hosts University of the West of England, England Students and Bristol Sonics rugby league matches, in the summer.

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