London Irish has today made one of the most significant announcements in its history by confirming that the club will be playing in London at the new Brentford Community Stadium from the start of the 2020/21 season.
For the last 18 years, London Irish has played its first team games at Reading FC’s Madejski Stadium, some 30 miles away from its state-of-the-art training base in Sunbury.
In the early years of professional rugby London Irish quickly outgrew the capacity of its spiritual home at The Avenue in Sunbury and, needing to comply with Premiership Rugby requirements, had to move its home ground, initially sharing Harlequins stadium at The Stoop for one season in 1999 before then moving its first team games to the Madejski Stadium in 2000.
While London Irish has enjoyed many successful years at Reading and is extremely grateful to Reading FC who have been excellent landlords, the club’s ambition has long been to return to west London and to re-establish itself closer to its historic base. London Irish’s management believes that the timing of the new Brentford stadium fits perfectly with this ambition and that the circumstances are now right to make this move.
The club has over the last few years been considering various stadium options and locations across London. At the same time Brentford FC unveiled exciting plans for a new community stadium and wider regeneration of a site just north of Kew Bridge which had strong synergies with London Irish’s own ambitions.
London Irish’s management is therefore delighted that an agreement has been reached with Brentford FC allowing its games to be played at the new Brentford Community Stadium which is currently under construction and due to open in time for the 2020/21 season.
With a capacity of 17,250, outstanding transport links and excellent facilities designed to meet the needs of both Premiership Rugby and the Premier League football, London Irish’s President Mick Crossan says that the new stadium is ideal for the club’s needs in the future.
“In moving to the Brentford Community Stadium we feel confident that we will be able to attract a larger supporter base to join us as we build for the future, reaching out to our previous west London catchment area, to Greater London and the Irish diaspora throughout the UK,” he says.
“We are therefore very pleased to have agreed this deal with Brentford's management and are looking forward to working closely with them to make the Brentford Community Stadium an outstanding home for us. Our special thanks to Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Mark Devlin, Conor Hayes, Alan Walsh and all at Brentford Football Club for facilitating this partnership. I can't wait to see the team run out to play its first game in 2020!
“The stadium will be an outstanding venue. It is the right size in a great location and will provide a superb match-day experience for our supporters and sponsors alike. We’re looking forward to recapturing the special atmosphere and all-day experience we had at The Avenue, where ‘The Craic’ was born.
“The fantastic facilities at Brentford Community Stadium will complement our unrivalled training base at Hazelwood, which is the spiritual home of the whole London Irish family all the way from the minis and juniors in the amateur club up to the professional team, and having the two within easy reach of each other was a significant part of our decision-making process.
“The excellent transport links will mean that our existing and new supporters alike will find the stadium very accessible. We will be working hard with our existing supporters including all those based in the Thames Valley to highlight the various routes into the Brentford/Kew area given the adjacent M4 and existing train and Underground services, as well as the new Crossrail connection which opens in 2019 linking Reading into west London.
“Importantly, we also have the full support of both Brentford FC and Hounslow Council, who are very keen to see London Irish play at the stadium and to fully explore the synergy between the two clubs particularly in terms of their excellent community programmes.
“I would also like to take some time to thank everyone at Reading FC who have made us feel welcome at the Madejski Stadium over the past 19 years and are most accommodating landlords – especially Sir John Madejski, Nigel Howe, Bryan Stabler, Ray Booth and, latterly, Lady Sasima Srivikorn, Mr Yongge Dai and Miss Xui Li Dai – and I would like to wish Reading FC every success in the future.
“Thank you as well to the supporters from the Reading area who have become part of the London Irish family since 2000, and we hope you will continue supporting us on our journey in the future.
“Finally, I would like to thank the London Irish Board of Directors, current and past, for their hard work in steering the realisation of the London Irish vision and securing the financial stability of the club.”
“I’m delighted that we are now able to finally announce that London Irish will play their matches at Brentford Community Stadium from the 2020/21 season,” Brentford FC’s Chairman, Cliff Crown, said. “We are building a high-quality stadium fully equipped and ready from day one for both Premier League football and Premiership rugby.
“Like us, London Irish has a long history in the area and prides itself on having strong roots in the local community. We look forward to continuing to work with them over the coming months to support their successful return to the capital.”
Councillor Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council, added: “I am delighted to hear the announcement that London Irish’s new home will be the new Brentford Community Stadium currently under construction. This is great news for the Borough; we now not only have an excellent football club in Brentford, but will now have a fantastic rugby club as well.
“Both clubs also have something else in common. They have their local community at their heart and provide excellent services and projects, particularly encouraging young people to take part in sport. I am sure their involvement in the Borough will go from strength to strength when the new stadium is open in 2020 and I would like to wish both Brentford and London Irish every success for the future.”
Reading Football Club Chief Executive, Nigel Howe, said: “As a club, we have thoroughly enjoyed a strong long-term relationship with London Irish who have been excellent partners for nearly two decades at Madejski Stadium.
“We understand and agree with their decision to move back to their heartland and appreciate that, as Brentford prepare to move into new stadium facilities being built in closer proximity to their Sunbury training base, this is the right time for them to relocate and play their rugby closer to their club’s London roots.
“We naturally look forward to working alongside London Irish during the remaining months of their tenancy and everyone at Reading Football Club would like to wish them every success for the future.”
Notes about the Brentford Community Stadium at Kew Bridge
Location: Lionel Road South, Brentford, just north Kew Bridge as it crosses the River Thames and adjacent to the Chiswick Roundabout, M4 and the South Circular Road into Richmond
Public Transport: Next door to Kew Bridge station (South Western Railway) with easy links to Waterloo and Clapham Junction as well as the Thames Valley. Also within easy walking distance of Gunnersbury and Kew Stations (District Line and London Overground) and Chiswick Park (District Line)
Construction Timetable: Construction commenced in March 2018; expected completion date Q2 2020