15 July 2020
Now that we are well into July there is a strong sense of optimism here at Hazelwood. For one thing, we are that little bit closer to seeing the team run out in the Gallagher Premiership, hopefully to re-capture the momentum we had back in February and March and aim our sights on the top six.
The players have begun their contact training in the next stage of our return-to-play process, and everyone is keen to increase their workload and intensity before our matches resume in mid-August.
The squad, coaches and all of the other staff certainly know that they will have your wholehearted backing for those matches, even though you will not be able to get to the game in person.
That’s because the response we have from Season Ticket holders to our ‘refund or donate’ policy has overwhelmingly been to donate the value of your un-used Season Tickets to the club, to help us navigate our way through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to that we have received many emails from you to send us your best wishes and to express your support. This means a massive amount to us as a club and on behalf of the directors, coaches, players and staff I would like to say a huge thank you to all of you.
As with every other club in the Gallagher Premiership this is a period of change for us. We have played our last match at the Madejski Stadium, and while the Brentford Community Stadium goes through its final few stages of its fitting out – work having been held up during the pandemic – we will be playing the remainder of the 2019/20 season at the Twickenham Stoop.
We may be fierce competitors with Harlequins on the field, but even rivals can support each other during extraordinary circumstances such as these, and I would like to thank the Quins Board, and in particular their Chief Executive Laurie Dalrymple and his team, for their positivity in accommodating our matches. Of course we still want to beat them the next time we play them though!
We were not able to celebrate our 20 years in the Thames Valley in the way we had been planning – believe me when I say that we had been looking forward to ending this chapter in our history in a memorable way! – but I would like to pay tribute to everyone in Reading, the wider area and the staff at Reading FC who have made us feel very welcome there. Although our ‘Farewell Madejski’ leaving party fixture was not able to take place, we have plans to host a virtual End of Season dinner for supporters to mark the occasion, details of which will be released shortly.
Of course I am sure that many of you have questions about the move to Brentford, and I would like to invite 2019/20 and 2020/21 Season Ticket holders onto a special Zoom call on Thursday 23 July at 7pm, when we will be providing updates on several key matters and answering all your queries. Declan Kidney will join the call to provide an update on the playing squad, which I know many supporters are keen to hear news on.
We’ll also be able to share more information on car parking at Brentford as well as park & ride facilities for next season, another area that I know is important for many. Unfortunately the lockdown meant that it’s taken us longer than we’d planned to finalise these details, but as life slowly starts to get back to normal we are pleased to be able to share more of this essential information with you. If you would like to take part in the Zoom call, please click here to sign up and send in your questions.
As always, entering a new contract year means there have been a number of changes to the playing squad, and we have said goodbye to some players who have been fantastic servants to the club. Our sincerest thanks to go out to these players and we wish them nothing but the very best in their next adventures.
There has also been a significant departure off the field, with Finance Director Paul Forsyth leaving us for pastures new. Finance is one of those areas of our operation that receives little attention outside the club, but Paul’s commitment, knowledge and expertise has been essential during the Championship year, the move back into London and now the pandemic. We will always be grateful to him for this.
Joining us as Chief Financial Officer is Adrian Alli, who was Finance Director at Premiership Rugby for 11 years before leaving to join London Irish. This means that he has unrivalled understanding of the club game in England and will be able to help us make the next chapter of London Irish’s history as successful as possible.
Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic means that we have reluctantly had to make a number of redundancies across a number of areas of our operation. We have come a long way in a short time and those who are leaving us have all contributed to that, and they will be missed.
Nevertheless, we have to continue to look forward, which in this case means progressing with Stage 2 training and planning for the return to rugby.
Thank you once again for your support, and I wish you continued good health and best wishes.