Kassam Stadium general manager Michael Doyle is confident the new groundshare between Oxford
United and London Welsh will work well.
Welsh will make their Premiership debut at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium on Sunday, September 2 when they host Leicester Tigers.
The first weekend both United and the Exiles will definitely both play at home is from January 4 to 6, although cup fixtures remain to be confirmed.
United fans have voiced concerns about the Kassam Stadium pitch cutting up under the greater use, but Doyle stressed the groundshare was nothing to be feared.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” he said.
“It works not only in this country, but all over Europe and it’s quite common for two separate sports to play at one stadium. “We have already had meetings at Reading and Wycombe to talk about the
“The uniqueness in this situation is neither of the clubs own the ground.”
Bristol Rovers are another club who host both sports. They employ four groundstaff to work on the pitch straight after a Saturday football fixture and prepare it for rugby.
They use another two or three on the Sunday morning. They employ two full-time and one part-time groundstaff during the week.
There is no full-time groundsman at the Kassam Stadium and work is currently carried out by personnel from Oxford University, but that
situation is likely to be reviewed.
Ian Holtby, the Memorial Stadium manager in Bristol, said: “No stadium can survive on one game a fortnight. You have to maximise the income, so having two games a weekend can be very good.
“We would never allow a rugby game to be played on a Friday if the football club were at home on the Saturday.”
“A groundshare is certainly do-able. We have been doing it very well for 14 years.
“People have no idea how much is involved. When we have a double header, as soon as the football is finished on a Saturday we get to work.
“It’s not just the groundstaff changing the pitch, advertising boards all need to be swapped, there are cleaners to get the ground ready and the catering staff prepare for the following day.
“One point is different rules on alcohol between the two sports – beer is allowed on terraces for rugby.
“It’s like anything, it takes that bit of time. Once you know what you’re doing, it goes like clockwork.”
London Wasps moved in with Wycombe Wanderers in 2002 following a groundshare with QPR at Loftus Road.
A Wycombe spokesman said: “Our experience of the groundshare has been very positive.
“It will be different to the situation in Oxford, because London Welsh will be dealing with a body who controls the ownership of the stadium.
“As long as London Welsh have a very strong agreement, there won’t be any problems. They will take second preference in terms of fixtures. Like Wasps, they will probably be playing a lot of home
games on Sundays.
“People forget there aren’t as many fixtures in rugby. Wasps only have about two home games a month. We haven’t had any issues, we have very good groundstaff.
“It’s really only when the weather is very wet that we have trouble.
“Obviously there’s some impact from the rugby on the turf. We tend not to use it for anything other than games – both clubs train elsewhere.
“It is a DESSO pitch (part synthetic, similar to the Kassam Stadium). Obviously, towards the end of the season there’s a bit of wear and tear, but it’s still better compared to other grounds who
have only one club playing on it.”
At Reading, all the groundstaff work on a full-time basis.
They are used to hosting rugby at the Madejski Stadium, having had a rugby club there practically since the Stadium opened in 1998, Richmond playing there before London Irish.
They say the different rules on alcohol and fans’ segregation do not pose problems as all areas are easily changed.