RUGBY: Oxford backing so critical for London Welsh

Herald Series: Could Gavin Henson be set for a move to Oxford-based London Welsh next season? Could Gavin Henson be set for a move to Oxford-based London Welsh next season?

LOCAL support will play a key role in how long London Welsh play Aviva Premiership rugby at the Kassam Stadium, according to the club’s chairman.

The Exiles secured promotion on Friday evening when an independent panel overturned a ruling by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) which deemed the Championship winners ineligible to take their place in the top flight.

It means a ground-share with Oxford United will go ahead, pending any last-ditch legal action from Newcastle Falcons, who were relegated as a result.

The north-east club are expected to reveal today whether they intend to contest the move.

Despite the uncertainty, London Welsh are beginning to plan in earnest for their debut season in the Premiership, with the fixtures announced on Wednesday.

Club chairman Bleddyn Phillips told the Oxford Mail in May they would look for gates of 5-10,000 if they moved to the Kassam Stadium.

And last night he acknowledged the degree of local backing would be critical to the success of the venture.

“We will certainly be there for the short and medium term,” he said.

“It depends largely on how we perform on the pitch, but if we do well there’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to be there for some period of time.

“It also depends on how we are able to build our support base there – if we can generate a lot of local enthusiasm that’s obviously going to be a key factor.”

With the clock ticking down to the new season, the club face a huge task to get ready for the top flight.

As well as a host of logistical issues which need to be ironed out, the most fundamental job will be to assemble a squad capable of competing in the Premiership.

One of the first names linked with the newly promoted club is former Wales star Gavin Henson.

London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones worked with the centre earlier in his career and although the 30-year-old’s troubles have been well documented, Henson would add some box-office appeal.

Phillips declined to be drawn on specific targets, but was clear the club would not compromise the culture which won them promotion.

He said: “We have to make sure we get the best players we can, but as Lyn Jones has said, it’s important those players buy into the ethos and team spirit which has got us to where we are.

“I think it’s fair to say if there are good players who are willing to subscribe to what we’re trying to do we’ll be interested.

“But we can’t ign-ore other factors and have to make sure they won’t seek unreasonable financial rewards.”

Comments (8)

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9:54am Mon 2 Jul 12

bobbylashley says...

I am sure all local rugby clubs welcome London Welsh and if they are as proactive in the community as Wasps are with current Oxfordshire clubs then they will get good support at their matches.Many will go to watch them just to see the away side as well as the home team with all those internationals on show. Bring it on
I am sure all local rugby clubs welcome London Welsh and if they are as proactive in the community as Wasps are with current Oxfordshire clubs then they will get good support at their matches.Many will go to watch them just to see the away side as well as the home team with all those internationals on show. Bring it on bobbylashley
  • Score: 2

12:48pm Mon 2 Jul 12

james(rg) says...

Give it a couple of years and London Welsh will be having 5000-10000 attendances. The moves have worked for both Wasps and London Irish, where the local fanbase far exceeds the original fan base.

London Irish were getting 1500 crowds on some gates when they moved to the Madjeski, now the average exceeds 9000 a game.

This could be a great move by London Welsh, with the exception of Sale and Exeter. all the premiership clubs are within two hours journey of the Kassam, London Irish, Wasps, Northampton Saints and Gloucester play in neighbouring counties.

I certainly am looking forward to the journey up the A4074 from Reading to see Welsh v Irish.
Give it a couple of years and London Welsh will be having 5000-10000 attendances. The moves have worked for both Wasps and London Irish, where the local fanbase far exceeds the original fan base. London Irish were getting 1500 crowds on some gates when they moved to the Madjeski, now the average exceeds 9000 a game. This could be a great move by London Welsh, with the exception of Sale and Exeter. all the premiership clubs are within two hours journey of the Kassam, London Irish, Wasps, Northampton Saints and Gloucester play in neighbouring counties. I certainly am looking forward to the journey up the A4074 from Reading to see Welsh v Irish. james(rg)
  • Score: 5

5:56pm Mon 2 Jul 12

mandate says...

Now that both professional football and rugby will be played at the stadium, it's time to build the 4th stand. If Kassam is'nt interested in investing in the 4th stand, then he should sell the ground to Lenegan.
Now that both professional football and rugby will be played at the stadium, it's time to build the 4th stand. If Kassam is'nt interested in investing in the 4th stand, then he should sell the ground to Lenegan. mandate
  • Score: 1

7:35pm Mon 2 Jul 12

angry badger says...

mandate wrote:
Now that both professional football and rugby will be played at the stadium, it's time to build the 4th stand. If Kassam is'nt interested in investing in the 4th stand, then he should sell the ground to Lenegan.
Last I heard, Kassam wanted £13 million for the stadium. You can add quite a few million to that now he has got a rugby team there as well!
[quote][p][bold]mandate[/bold] wrote: Now that both professional football and rugby will be played at the stadium, it's time to build the 4th stand. If Kassam is'nt interested in investing in the 4th stand, then he should sell the ground to Lenegan.[/p][/quote]Last I heard, Kassam wanted £13 million for the stadium. You can add quite a few million to that now he has got a rugby team there as well! angry badger
  • Score: 0

2:44pm Tue 3 Jul 12

Kidlington Dave says...

James - not sure you've followed Wasps' situation too closely if you think they've benefitted from moving to Wycombe. Their crowds are well down these days and heavily subsidised by free tickets for community clubs, other than a very few big games they never close to filling Adams Park.

And I doubt you'll find many Wycombe fans with anything positive to say about the groundshare, particularly the way rugby tears up the pitch in the winter and how Wasps have taken away a small but significant number of local `sports fans' from the football.
James - not sure you've followed Wasps' situation too closely if you think they've benefitted from moving to Wycombe. Their crowds are well down these days and heavily subsidised by free tickets for community clubs, other than a very few big games they never close to filling Adams Park. And I doubt you'll find many Wycombe fans with anything positive to say about the groundshare, particularly the way rugby tears up the pitch in the winter and how Wasps have taken away a small but significant number of local `sports fans' from the football. Kidlington Dave
  • Score: -1

4:16pm Tue 3 Jul 12

oldun says...

Narr - not 10,000 (they will do well to average 6500) as nearly all of Oxon's rugby fans already go to Wycombe (Wasps) , Reading (Irish) , Northampton or Glawwster (or even Worcester) they will very much depend on away following . None of those will bring more than 3000 to Oxford . Look out for a 3000 crowds against Sale or Exeter. I loves my Rugby but there won't be 5000 rugby fans in Oxon who don't already got to matches. Welsh need to get back to the smoke - build their own stadium or share with Wasps (new stadium) or Quins (their Rugby League crowds are very small)
Narr - not 10,000 (they will do well to average 6500) as nearly all of Oxon's rugby fans already go to Wycombe (Wasps) , Reading (Irish) , Northampton or Glawwster (or even Worcester) they will very much depend on away following . None of those will bring more than 3000 to Oxford . Look out for a 3000 crowds against Sale or Exeter. I loves my Rugby but there won't be 5000 rugby fans in Oxon who don't already got to matches. Welsh need to get back to the smoke - build their own stadium or share with Wasps (new stadium) or Quins (their Rugby League crowds are very small) oldun
  • Score: 0

10:38am Wed 4 Jul 12

Dan - Eynsham says...

I hope Oxford United are training with a mind to how bad their pitch is going to become. Rugby and football aren't really compatible. Some clubs minimise the damage by putting in semi-artificial pitches. Others don't, and their pitches become almost unplayable. If any United fans remember trips to Edgeley Park(and there weren't many of you, by the way), they will know what I mean.
I hope Oxford United are training with a mind to how bad their pitch is going to become. Rugby and football aren't really compatible. Some clubs minimise the damage by putting in semi-artificial pitches. Others don't, and their pitches become almost unplayable. If any United fans remember trips to Edgeley Park(and there weren't many of you, by the way), they will know what I mean. Dan - Eynsham
  • Score: 0

12:59pm Wed 4 Jul 12

bobbylashley says...

I wonder how Reading won promotion then with their ground share with London Irish and such a poor playing surface.??
I wonder how Reading won promotion then with their ground share with London Irish and such a poor playing surface.?? bobbylashley
  • Score: 2

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