We aim to be the best, says rugby club's new owner
Bath Rugby has set its sights on becoming the biggest club in England after unveiling an ambitious new owner and plans for a new training ground.
The club ended weeks of speculation yesterday by revealing the identity of its new chairman.
Andrew Brownsword, who had been chairman of the club for 14 years, has sold it to successful businessman and keen Bath supporter Bruce Craig – and both men are convinced they are on the dawn of an exciting new era.
Speaking exclusively to the Chronicle before the official launch of the new regime, outgoing chairman Mr Brownsword said he was confident he was handing the club over to the right man at the right time.
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"It is no secret that I have been thinking of selling the club but I would only ever do so when l thought we had found the right person to take over. I felt he was the right person – and he has come good.
"I have developed a trust for him and it's important the club is in safe hands for the future. I think Bruce will turn us from being a world heritage club into a world class club."
Mr Craig, 47, who recently sold the pharmaceutical firm he founded for £975 million, says he is delighted to have taken ownership of Bath Rugby and wants the whole city to feel part of the future.
He now owns all of the club's shares – including those previously held by the old amateur club's trustees.
He said: "Bath Rugby is a family and we want the fans, the players, the coaches and the city as a whole to share our vision of trying to put this club where it belongs. It's not going to be about me – it's going to be about the supporters and the city.
"We want to build something very special and we want everyone to be a part of that."
The club today also announced plans for a new headquarters – a large former school site at Farleigh Hungerford complete with first class training facilities, rugby pitches and a gym. The current training ground at Lambridge could then, in future, be used more extensively for promoting the club's amateur sides and community initiatives.
As for where Bath Rugby will be playing, the new chairman says he is keeping all his options open.
The Chronicle has already revealed that Bath Rugby is actively looking at other sites within the city – with Western Riverside a favoured spot – but has not ruled out staying at The Rec.
The target is to have a new world-class stadium in place by 2015 – to coincide with the club's 150th anniversary and the year England hosts the World Cup. The club's new chief says he would love to be in a position for Bath to host World Cup games in its new stadium.
Mr Craig said: "We want to make sure our stadium is in the heart of the city and 2015 is when we hope to achieve it by. For a sustainable financial future, we need to have a facility which is going to work. I'm not talking about for three or five years, I'm talking about 10, 15, 25 and 30 years.
"For me this is not a short-term project."
The deal, for an undisclosed amount, was sealed earlier this week although Mr Brownsword says he first became aware of the passion that Mr Craig had for the club some time ago.
"We had our first phone call two years ago. We were on the phone for two hours and I could tell the bloke was absolutely passionate about the club that I owned," said Mr Brownsword.
"When it came to the sale we haven't really negotiated. It was a done deal from the first word.
"I was prepared to keep 10 per cent, but Bruce wanted 100 per cent and that's fine. That's what I would have wanted if I was Bruce."