Since their relegation to the Championship back in 2008, Bristol have endured a pretty torrid time of things – the club failed at the final promotional hurdle to Exeter, London Welsh and Worcester and endured various assorted other disappointments and heartaches in their eight years in the wilderness – but now they’re back, and with Steve Lansdown’s resources behind them, they mean business.
There have been big changes at Bristol in the years since their relegation, not least the aforementioned billionare Bristol businessman taking ownership of the club – and this has had a significant impact on the club’s kit, produced as they are by Lansdown’s own Bristol Sport brand, which also kits out the various other Bristol sports teams he owns.
The home shirt is an interesting mix of the conventional and the not. After a few years of generally annoying fans by messing about with the classic blue and white hoops, sense has clearly prevailed in the Bristol Sport design studio, though substantially less conventional is the use of a large amount of red.
Large red panels run up the side of the jersey, while the vaguely Canterbury-style neckline is also strikingly scarlet – we’re not sure how it’ll go down with the traditionalists, but we wonder if the red here is a nod to the colours of the football team whose Ashton Gate ground the club now shares – Steve Lansdown’s first love, Bristol City.
It’s a question worth asking, because #corporatesynergy is very much at the forefront of the Bristol Sport machine’s thinking this season, as evidenced by the rather lovely away shirt, which will be worn (with slight differences) by both Bristol Rugby and Bristol City this season.
It’s a very clever bit of cross-promotion and a great way of bringing together two sets of fans that have perhaps not always seen eye to eye in the pre-Lansdown – but also a good way of establishing a colllective sporting identity for a city that has struggled mightily to deliver the sporting success you’d expect from one of the country’s most populous areas.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s a bloody lovely design either – the gold and the dark blue is an absolutely stellar combination, with the subtle tonal striping across the body of the the jersey giving a bit of interest in what otherwise is a very clean, very retro kind of ensemble.
Bristol have waited a long time to take their place at the top table of English rugby again, but with both of these new jerseys the club demonstrates that they’re a very different entity to the one that went down eight years ago. With billionaire money behind them and the Bristol Sport edifice supporting them in both a practical and philosophical sense, Bris mean business – and they’ve got the threads to match, too.