Steve Lansdown: Bristol 'underestimated' Premiership, admits owner
Relegated Bristol "underestimated the Premiership", the club's owner Steve Lansdown has admitted.
The Ashton Gate club, back in the top tier for the first time since 2009, won just three league games as they made an immediate return to the Championship.
"We thought we were ready, with a squad that could compete, but we were wrong," Lansdown told BBC Radio Bristol.
"We've learnt a lot of hard lessons. No excuses, we got it wrong. I should have recognised the danger signs sooner."
In November, after losing their first 10 games of the season in all competitions, Bristol sacked director of rugby Andy Robinson - who had led them to promotion in 2016.
With Connacht boss Pat Lam not able to replace Robinson until this summer, Mark Tainton took interim charge until the end of the season, but despite a brief upturn in form, he was unable to keep them in the top flight.
"Off the pitch, I don't think we've covered ourselves in glory," Lansdown admitted.
"I should have perhaps stuck my oar in a bit earlier and said 'we need that change'.
"We started off very badly. We underestimated what the Premiership would do.
"Our players have got better over time, but we know we didn't get it right at the start of the season.
"We knew it was going to be tough but we felt we would be able to win the number of games to keep us there."
'We were stuck in a time warp'
Bristol finished the campaign 13 points adrift of 11th-placed Worcester and 20 below 10th-placed Sale.
But major changes have already been made to their squad for next season, with Worcester Warriors flanker Chris Vui, Gloucester pair Mat Protheroe and Dan Thomas, and Sam Bedlow from Sale Sharks their most recent signings.
"We [thought we] had teams like Worcester and Newcastle in our sights, but they were miles ahead of us. I don't think they will be when we come back," said Lansdown.
"We've got to take our medicine now, step back and regroup. We need that extra class - I think we've brought that in now - and we need that development. The plan is in place.
"We've got to regenerate Bristol. We were stuck in a time warp, and we never actually got ourselves out of it when we got up to the Premiership. But we've been shaken up now and we are definitely out of it."
Steve Lansdown was speaking to the BBC's Damian Derrick.