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An open letter from Bristol Bears owner, Stephen Lansdown CBE

Bristol Bears continues to face a number of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I would like to take this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to the Bears vision: To Inspire Our Community Through Rugby Success.

First and foremost, our thoughts are with those who have been affected by COVID-19. We remain committed to supporting the NHS and our communities during this difficult time. On behalf of the club and Bristol Sport, we are hugely grateful to all of our key workers who are playing a vital role in protecting the vulnerable.

We are working closely with Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the Rugby Players Association (RPA), the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to ensure that the 2019/20 campaign gets back underway when it is safe and appropriate to do so. With the welfare of our players, staff and officials the highest priority, we are eager to complete the season and – over the past two months – Pat Lam has been working on a ‘world class’ strategy to ensure we are physically and mentally ready to go when the time is right.

Over recent weeks, there have been a series of rumours and speculation circulating in the media around the future of Premiership Rugby. Therefore, it is important for us to provide absolute clarity on Bristol Bears’ stance on a number of the issues that have arisen.

We have a clear vision. It’s on the walls of our building and underpins everything we do. Our relentless ambition is to win trophies and dominate in Europe. We have a detailed, long-term strategy to achieve these goals and the wheels are already in motion.

Equally as important to success on the pitch is the legacy we create in our region. Bristol Bears are committed to growing the sport and engaging with our community. That’s why we’ve seen extraordinary growth in the past four seasons; a 33% increase in average attendance to 17,924, a greater diversity in gender and demographic and a 42% increase in supporters under the age of 19.

To continue to drive the commercial growth of the game, we must keep the best players in the Premiership. The right high-profile internationals encourage investment, appeal to new audiences and aid team performance. This challenging period should be used as an opportunity to reflect and explore how we can keep developing rugby through bold, innovative ideas. Now is not the time to take a step back and stifle progress.

That is why we support the current salary cap. We believe the Premiership should foster and encourage ambition, while ensuring that clubs show financial prudence and planning. In previous seasons, Bristol Bears have not spent up to the salary cap. Instead, we have made the right decisions – in recruitment and for the business – to ensure that we can be competitive while still meeting the Premiership’s salary requirements.

In addition, the club believe strongly in protecting the marquee rule. Not only do we have long term contractual obligations that we have planned and budgeted for, it’s difficult to compete at the highest level domestically and in Europe without the ability to recruit the best players. The Premiership is the best rugby competition on the planet. Removing the best talent would dilute the appeal and impact on its ability to compete in the global market. High quality rugby in front of large crowds breeds healthy competition and is only a good thing for the sport and its long-term sustainability. With a world class training facility, stadium and young squad hungry for silverware, Bristol Bears want to continue to show ambition and to aspire to achieve great things.

I’d like to pay tribute to the players and staff who have shown great integrity during these unprecedented times. It’s a reflection of the Bears Team culture that everybody has been willing to make salary sacrifices for the long-term security of the club. The unique environment, where everybody from the leadership through to the Academy is aligned in their mission to inspire the community, is something we are fiercely proud of.

Finally, I’m immensely proud of the support that the Bears are providing in the community every day through food bank donations and delivery, charitable fundraising and working alongside our award-winning community foundation to support wellbeing and education programmes.

The club is on an exciting journey and, despite the tough times we face today, our vision and pursuit of success has not – and will not - change.

Together We Rise.

Steve Lansdown CBE.