Bristol City FC criticised for allowing an arms fair at stadium

  • Post last modified:March 7, 2024
  • Reading time:12 mins read

Protesters blockaded an arms fair in Bristol – but not just at any old location. This is because the stadium used by Bristol City FC was the venue – and campaigners and fans alike were angry.

Bristol City FC – happy with an arms fair on its turf?

As Dave, a Canary reader, wrote to us saying:

An arms fair takes place in Bristol in 2 weeks time- 5 – 6 March at Ashton Gate stadium. This must not be swept under the rug.

The sponsors include Elbit Systems, the Israeli arms manufacturer that markets it’s weapons as “battle tested”- which mean’s they’ve been used against the 29,000 Palestinians killed since October, and tens of thousands before that.

So, the Canary looked into it. Indeed, the stadium that’s the home of Bristol City FC was indeed hosting an arms fair – hence the local community took action. Campaigners blockaded the Bristol arms fair for two days over its complicity in Israel’s genocide. On 5-6 March, activists protested outside the arms fair:

The Future Indirect Fires and Joint Military Training & Simulation Stream conferences took place at the Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol. Companies attending the conference include Elbit Systems and BAE Systems who are complicit in the genocide Israel is perpetrating against Palestinian people in Gaza:

Bristol City FC

Complicit in genocide

Israel arms company Elbit Systems plays a central role in arming the occupation and battle testing its weapons and technologies on Palestinians. 15% of the value of every US-made F-35 combat aircraft is made in the UK, with BAE Systems the most important of at least 79 companies involved in the programme.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) conservatively estimates that the work on the 36 F-35s exported to Israel up to 2022 is worth at least £336m to the UK arms industry.

The protest, called by Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Bristol Stop the War, and supported by many different organisations, also called on people and Bristol City FC fans to complain to Ashton Gate stadium, a sporting and cultural venue in Bristol. The protest aimed:

to make it clear that arms manufacturers are not welcome in our city and that we stand against Elbit and BAE and with Palestinian people.

Since 2015, the UK has licenced over £487m worth of arms to Israel in single issue licenses. However, this does not include open licenses where companies can export unlimited amounts of specified equipment without further reporting requirements. These figures do not include licenses issued since 7th October due to a lag in reporting arms export data.

Bristol City FC called out

Emily Apple, CAAT media coordinator said:

This week people showed clearly that they will not stand by and let arms dealers meet in Bristol, and they will not be complicit in genocide. BAE Systems recently announced record profits. Genocide is good business for these merchants of death.

This government has repeatedly refused to halt arms sales to Israel despite overwhelming evidence of war crimes amounting to a genocide. But while our government refuses to act, people are showing, on a daily basis, that we can, and we will, take action against this abhorrent trade.

One Stream in Bristol, a Bristol City FC podcast and magazine also released a statement about the event expressing their “anger, disgust and profound concern”. It continued:

Ashton Gate Stadium has every right to attract commercial revenue from a diverse range of sectors but an event of this nature does not sit well with many in the local area and does not represent the wider values of the Bristol community.

As members of that community it is crucial that we take a stand… We ask you to consider the humanitarian implications that arise from such events and to show that organisations who profit from war and the manufacture of lethal weapons have no place in our community stadium.

​​​​One of the protesters, Patrick Walker from Newport, South Wales said:

It’s grotesque that companies like Elbit Systems and BAE see the extermination of a people as a business opportunity. The UK has to stop arming Israel today or be complicit in genocide”.


The Canary contacted Ashton Gate for comment – but it had not replied at the time of publication.

Apple told the Canary:

It is disgusting that Bristol City FC’s stadium is hosting this arms fair, especially as Israeli arms firm Elbit Systems, who advertise their weapons as “battle tested” on Palestinian people, is one of the sponsors. The companies sponsoring and exhibiting at this event are complicit in the genocide Israel is committing against Palestinian people.

BAE Systems, the lead partner in providing components for the F35 combat aircraft that are currently bombarding Gaza, has just announced record profits. Genocide is good business for these merchants of death. It is down to all of us to take action against this abhorrent fair, and to ensure these murderous arms dealers know they are not welcome in Bristol.

Featured image and additional images via CAAT

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