Pitch Perfect

I want to share my congratulations to Bristol Bears who have qualified for the Rugby Premiership semi-finals after their win over London Irish this weekend. It was great to see Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, talk about how much this means to the community and fans as well as the team.  I recently met with Pat and his team at the impressive Failand training ground.

I was also pleased that both Bristol football teams won on the weekend too.   It’s early season for the football clubs and I hope they can both have positive seasons. They are big institutions in the city and their performances mean a lot to many people in the city.   Both clubs have demonstrated their importance to communities through Covid-19 as support networks for the distribution of food and other community initiatives.

It has often been said that we are the ‘most pro-sport administration Bristol has seen for decades’, and we’ve identified three key priorities for sport in our city:

  • Increasing participation
  • Bringing world class events to Bristol
  • Improving elite talent pathways for Bristolians

Cabinet considered a report today which is an opportunity to breathe life into the sports offer in the city. It will start a call for expression of interest for groups to take on the operation and maintenance of sports pitches. We believe local communities, the clubs, teams and groups that use the sites themselves, are best placed to operate them and to secure investment in them.

This approach to sport and playing pitches will mean a more sustainable financial future for football, cricket and bowls facilities in the city’s parks and green spaces by transferring their management and operation to capable third parties through a transparent application process. As well as being able to mobilise their community, these groups can often access funds that the council cannot.

Of course, for those that are not subject to any expressions of interest, we are still committed to further raise the quality of these facilities through investment while looking to make the offer cost neutral to the council.

The community asset approach is one we have already been taking across the city with other facilities, from Skemers Boxing gym in Filwood to an improved growing tennis offer at the city parks.

This community-focused approach is also one we want to take on Jubilee Pool in Knowle – the community is clearly motivated to save the pool, and best placed to turn this enthusiasm into attendance is key to a sustainable and thriving pool.

We continue to fund leisure centres during a difficult period and along with core cities, I have written to the government to ask for direct intervention with financial support for a crucial but struggling sector.

In Bristol we have already spent £900,000 on pool and leisure centre provision to help them through the pandemic and more will be required. Rather than see outdoor sports facilities facing the same crisis, this innovative approach will empower community groups and teams and will mean a more sustainable, better quality offer for cricket, football and bowls in Bristol which will help us all reach our goals.

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