GLOUCESTER is rugby mad but the round ball game is live and kicking in the city.
Although evidence of the Cherry and Whites is all around, and the suburbs are peppered with junior clubs’ rugby union pitches, leading association football figures have championed their game after a light-hearted claim that the city doesn’t have a football club.
And no doubt the thousands of players in and around Gloucester, playing in several hundred amateur teams every weekend would beg to differ too.
Gloucester City, which plays in the sixth tier of England’s football pyramid, the Skrill North division, is reformulating plans to build a new stadium at the site of its flood-ruined Sudmeadow Road ground, and end the loyal fans’ sojourn to “home” fixtures in Cheltenham. They have also played at Cirencester Town’s and Forest Green Rovers’ grounds due to the 2007 floods.
The club is pleased too, that Aviva, whose advert for Premiership rugby made the claim, has set the record straight.
“As a very proud sponsor of the top domestic rugby league in England, Aviva have created a set of rugby adverts to highlight the passion that our fans have for their clubs,” it said.
“We recognise that sport, whatever sport you follow, has a great impact on communities for good reasons across the UK and we have seen that in Gloucester.
“Aviva was focussed on celebrating our rugby sponsorship through finding passionate supporters like we did at Gloucester who love their club and wanted to highlight the joy that they get from following Gloucester Rugby Club".
The Norwich-based company has also donated a signed Norwich City shirt, which Gloucester City will raffle off at their “Pay What You Want” match on Tuesday, January 28, when they face Histon in a Skrill North fixture.
The advert featured Neal and Jo Scrivener, who were filmed at the Kingsholm rugby ground saying why they supported the club. The words ‘Gloucester’s only sport is rugby. They do a thing called ’skittles’ and that’s it for sport in the city, they don’t even have a football club’ upset City fans, who complained to Aviva.
It apologised and withdrew the version of the offending video.
The new chairman of Gloucester City, Stuart Pike said: “We are grateful to Aviva for withdrawing the video and they, plus the two Gloucester rugby fans involved, certainly now know there is a city football club plus that other sports do flourish here.
“In respect of the donation of the shirt, it has been decided everyone attending the match on January 28 will receive a free draw ticket on entry and a winning ticket will be drawn at half time. We hope that will be a further incentive to get fans to the match, alongside being able to pay what they want to watch the match by making a donation at the turnstiles.”
Gloucester City Council leader Paul James said: "We are proud of Gloucester being a sporting city in its many forms.
“It's not just about rugby, important though that is, but football, athletics, tennis, swimming, rowing and much more besides. Gloucester certainly does have a football club, which is doing remarkably well in difficult circumstances, and the sooner it is playing within the city again the better.”