Expansionist Blog: Oxford and Gloucestershire merging into Bristol doesn’t make sense

Drew Darbyshire

It’s brilliant that Rugby League will have a team in Bristol but logistically, it doesn’t make sense to merge Oxford and Gloucestershire All Golds.

Oxford and Gloucestershire joined the semi-professional ranks of the RFL ahead of the 2013 campaign and spent five seasons in League 1 before merging.

Both clubs exited the league in order to form a new club, Bristol Rugby League, which will enter the third-tier of English Rugby League from the 2019 season onwards.

And I will reiterate what I said in the introduction, it is absolutely fantastic that we are going to have a semi-professional Rugby League team in Bristol. It’s great for the sport.

The last thing I want this blog to be is negative, but more of a debate. I just don’t understand how teams from Oxford and Gloucester can merge to form a team in Bristol. It doesn’t make sense I’m afraid.

Travelling between Oxford’s home, Tilsley Park, Gloucester’s Price of Wales’ Stadium and Bristol Temple Meads station all take more than an hour between each ground. I thought mergers were meant to be when two places or teams are close to one another to merge somewhere fairly near the two places?

Approximately, it is 1h 15m between the Prince of Wales Stadium and Tilsley Park. It will take you 1h 10m to get from the Gloucester’s stadium to Bristol Temple Meads and 1h 35m from Oxford’s ground to Bristol Temple Meads station.

Both clubs were dwindling crowds of around 200 and even though that might not sound like a lot, they still had a small platform there and will them 500 or so people be willing to travel over an hour for every home game? It will be a challenge for Bristol’s marketing team, that’s for sure.

Oxford had a couple of good foundations in place to be fair, with their University having a Rugby League team since the 1970s and completes in an annual match against Cambridge.

There is an amateur team down there as well in Oxford Cavaliers which is a positive sign.

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire also showed promising signs, having thee junior teams that took part in the Midlands Junior League as well as competing in the BUCS Super 8, the highest student Rugby League divison.

In 2012, the All Golds defeated the likes of Widnes Vikings, London Broncos and Salford Red Devils in a Rugby League 9s competition. The club were good off the field too, with them having a dedicated media representative as well as gaining exposure by LIVE streaming a game on YouTube. A brilliant idea.

Three expansion teams were admitted to the semi-professional ranks of the RFL in 2013. These were Oxford, Gloucestershire All Golds and Hemel Stages.

It is sad to see that only one of them expansion teams remain in the RFL and although Oxford and Gloucester struggled in the league tables over the years, they provided us with some great entertainment and we move onto the next chapter in Bristol.

Personally, I thought one of England’s three Test matches against New Zealand might have been hosted in Bristol next year so they could boost the profile down there but it wasn’t to be.

Can Rugby League be cracked in Bristol? Let’s hope so. It could be massive for the game.