UK retailer Sainsbury was recently slammed as ‘blatantly deceptive’ when its plans of knocking down the Memorial Stadium in Bristol, along with the inscribed gates recognized as a WWI memorial, surfaced after it released its touching Christmas advert centering on the Christmas Truce of 1914 made in cooperation with the Royal British Legion.
Sainsbury’s much talked about and controversial Christmas ad shows the well-known story of the First World War — the Christmas Day truce in 1914 in where the German and British soldiers shook hands, exchanged small gifts and even played football in no man’s land.
But as UK’s third largest retailer worked on the Christmas advert with the Royal British Legion, they also had been planning on demolishing the Memorial Stadium in Bristol to make way for a new Sainsbury store.
Bristol’s Memorial Stadium
The said ground is, as to date, home to the Bristol Rovers Football Club. Nevertheless, it was originally built way back in 1921 in the memory of the 300 local rugby players who died in the Great War.
The stands of the ground itself along with the dressing room were put up on a land donated by a local businessman. Initially the home of the Bristol Rugby Club, ownership of the fields was passed on to its current owner, the Bristol Rovers Football Club, in the 1990s.
The club, wanting to build a newer stadium situated on the outskirts of Bristol, has been trying to sell the ground and the Memorial Stadium so that they could get funds for the move. Sainsbury stepped in and got its planning permission to build a new store as well as homes and community facilities January of 2013.
Sadly, the redevelopment Saisnbury is planning for the area includes the demolition of the entire stadium and grounds including the widely-recognized Memorial Gates which is a site for a Remembrance service every November.
Because of this, Sainsbury has faced great backlash from campaigners who have branded the retailer as ‘hypocritical’.
As one campaigner, Jamie Carstairs, put it, the Sainsbury Christmas advert was a slick, artful and manipulative film making but makes an inappropriate use of the sacrifices made during the Great War as the retailer had long planned the destruction of the well-known memorial sports ground in Bristol.
Not only is the project facing opposition because of the destruction of the WWI memorial but is also criticized over concerns on traffic and noise.
On the other hand, the Sainsbury management insisted that it sees and acknowledges the importance of the war memorial and the ground itself and are even incorporating plans to preserve the historicity of the place.
According to a Sainsbury spokesman, the giant retailer recognizes the importance of the site and plans to preserve the memorial stone found in the ground. Furthermore, the company will put up a public square commemorating the memory left by the Bristol rugby players in their planned establishment. The spokesmen even stated that Sainsbury will put up a new memorial using stones from existing pillars as well as the inscribed gates.