By Steve Cotton

Bristol Rugby are celebrating winning promotion at the first attempt – and JMP UK were with them every step of the way throughout their record-breaking season.

As the club’s official photography partner, JMP UK had unparalleled and unprecedented access to Pat Lam’s squad as they emphatically booked their place in next season’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby.

Joe Meredith, managing director of JMP UK, said: “I’ve been following Bristol as a fan since the days when Ralph Knibbs was playing, and after the transition of the club’s ownership – when they came under the Bristol Sport umbrella – we were asked to come and work with them.

“It’s an excellent relationship, and with [JMP UK director of photography] Rogan Thomson being such a big Bristol fan, he has taken ownership of our coverage, ably supported by talented photographers such as Robbie Stephenson and Dougie Allward.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work they have done covering the team this season. The light and conditions at some of the grounds might have been challenging at times – but, at the same time, that can give you a slightly more authentic set of images.

“With Pat and his management team building such an inclusive culture, we have been able to develop an excellent rapport with them, which is based on trust.

“I’m really pleased Bristol will be back in the Premiership next season – and, as an agency, our challenge is to maintain and even improve our level of coverage. With the club embarking on a new chapter as Bristol Bears, and the new signings coming on board, we’re already looking forward to the 2018-19 Premiership season.”

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Bristol won 21 of their 22 Greene King IPA Championship matches, scoring a staggering 949 points in the process, as they finished 20 points clear of their closest pursuers, Ealing Trailfinders.

Rogan Thomson, who photographed the majority of Bristol’s games throughout the season, said: “When you’re covering a team that is scoring tries for fun and throwing the ball around, as Bristol were this season, it’s an absolute pleasure to photograph.

“The Pat Lam effect is being felt on and off the field. I do most of the games, and it’s great to cover a successful season, because it allows you to build up more of a rapport with the players you’re photographing.

“When you cover a club as closely as we do Bristol Rugby, you become invested in the results, so when they have a season like the one they’ve just had, you take a bit more job satisfaction from it.

“So much stems from Pat as head coach, from the style of play down to the superb access we get as photographers, and everyone at JMPUK wishes the club the very best for their return to the Premiership.”

JMP UK worked with the club on their well-publicised recent rebrand, which will see them become known as Bristol Bears from June 1.

Tom Tainton, Bristol Rugby’s head of media & communications, said: “We have, once again, been ecstatic with JMPUK and the service they provide.

“Pat Lam and his management team have built an inclusive culture – and JMP UK have really bought into that. As a result, Rogan Thomson has earned a lot of trust and had a lot of access that other photographers haven’t – and has always worked diligently to get us the coverage we otherwise wouldn’t have enjoyed.

“But it’s not just the on-field activity: as an agency, JMP UK have covered things such as our community engagement with the same consummate professionalism with which they approach match-day.”