Bristol Sonics has withdrawn from the West of England League with immediate effect.
The club took the dramatic step following a second successive week in which it was unable to raise a side. The move means that the Sonics will not play any competitive fixtures in 2018, putting the future of the club at stake.
The club, which was founded in 2002 and is among the longest running in the region, issued the following statement.
“Today, the committee and coaches of Bristol Sonics RLFC have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from the West of England League with immediate effect. This means that the Sonics will not take to the field in organized competition this season. Weekly sessions of touch rugby league and light training will continue to take place on the Durdham Downs, with the aim of playing some friendly fixtures later in the season. The Sonics hope to re-apply to join the West of England League for the 2019 season.
The decision to step down from the West of England league was not taken lightly. Extensive and strenuous efforts have been made behind the scenes to address the club’s problems, which mostly stem from volunteer burnout, player availability and player commitment. The Sonics started 2018 with a squad decimated by injuries, retirements and transfers to other West of England League clubs. Although we have actively been trying to recruit new players, with modest success, this is not enough to get through a full West of England League season.
We passionately want Rugby League to succeed in Bristol and for the Sonics to be a force again in future, with a full compliment of adult, junior and youth sides. This can only be achieved with commitment from a new group of volunteers, players, coaches and supporters. We have already begun the process of rebuilding and would encourage anyone who wants to see Rugby League survive and thrive in our great city to get in touch with Sonics founder Phil Cole via email on firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on social media and look at our website regularly. Any players who wish to try their hand at the sport are encouraged to come down to sessions on Wednesday nights. For full details of these, and our rebuilding plans as they develop, please keep an eye on www.bristolsonics.com.
Bristol Sonics club founder Phil Cole said: “Unfortunately this day has been coming for a few years. Although those involved saw the writing on the wall, our small but dedicated team of volunteers was unable to stop the slide. I know they did everything they could to avoid withdrawing from the league, and I’m grateful in particular to player-coaches Blake Knowlson and Simon Bannister, who have worked tirelessly in recent months to try and get a team on the pitch.
“Rugby League has a long history in Bristol and we passionately want to see this continue. However, we need fresh blood, fresh ideas, passion and commitment. We will be using the next few months to work out what went wrong and form a plan moving forwards. I would encourage anyone who wishes to see Rugby League survive and thrive in Bristol to come forwards, whether they are previous players who are committed to the sport in their home city, passionate Rugby League fans, or people with a skill set that they think could be of use to the Sonics. This is not the end, merely the beginning of a new chapter.”
Further updates will be posted on www.bristolsonics.com in the weeks and months ahead.