Hard work for Bath on and off pitch

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The Independent Online
While Bristol Rovers enjoy life back in their home city at the Memorial Ground, the team they left behind at Twerton Park have endured a season of stress.

Having Rovers as tenants brought Bath City about pounds 100,000 per year. City had budgeted for that until the year 2000, so Rovers' decision to move in with Bristol Rugby Club was an unwelcome surprise.

With debts of around pounds 300,000, Bath started the GM Vauxhall Conference campaign looking for a saviour. But Andrew Page, a local night-club owner, withdrew his rescue package and a rival consortium also pulled out when its plans to sell the ground proved unacceptable.

However, at an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday, Keith Foster, a former director, became controlling shareholder with a 51 per cent stake. His investment company, Corporate Equity, has put in about pounds 150,000 to boost club funds.

"At least that will get the creditors off our back," Bob Twyford, Bath's general manager and secretary, said yesterday, "but there will be none to spare to strengthen the team. It was the best deal available, though."

Bath are now bottom but one in the Conference and it has been a tough campaign so far for Steve Millard, who took charge in the summer after the departure of the popular player-manager, Tony Ricketts.

After losing several good players in the close season, Millard has plugged the gaps with youngsters plus three Bristol Rovers old boys: Graham Withey, Shaun Penny and Steve Cross, the former Rovers assistant manager who signed for City last week.

Bath admit they may have to drop down a league before they can rebuild the team. "The problem we face is that rugby rules in this city," Twyford said. "The business community just isn't interested in football."