Rugby Union: Bristol's financial problems worsened by fixture chaos

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It never rains but it pours, especially when you are reduced to relinquishing the family silver in a last-ditch effort to keep the wolf from the door. Bristol, fresh from selling their Memorial Ground home to pay off debts running into seven figures, yesterday saw pounds 50,000-worth of cash flow slip through their fingers as English rugby's fixture rumpus took another savage twist.

The West Country club's lucrative Allied Dunbar Premiership match with Leicester was postponed to allow the Tigers to complete their delayed Tetley's Bitter Cup fourth-round business at Coventry. A second Premiership game between Richmond and Bath was also put to one side so that Bath could play their cup tie with London Scottish.

Fred Howard, Bristol's harrassed team manager, said the club had sold all available hospitality packages for the game along with 2,500 advance tickets. He was pinning his hopes on a successful appeal to the competition organisers, but midweek options have been ruled out by long-arranged international squad sessions and with the fifth round scheduled for 24 January, time is of the essence.

The chaotic knock-on effect of a single weekend's rough weather will add fuel to the fire at today's meeting of the owners of the professional clubs. Their frustration with the current fixture structure may lead to a boycott of next season's European competitions.

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