London Irish CEO Mark Bensted has penned his latest programme column ahead of our Round 19 fixture against Exeter Chiefs in the Gallagher Premiership on Tuesday night - as the Exiles prepare to open their doors to supporters at the Brentford Community Stadium.
You can read more from Bensted, Declan Kidney, Matt Rogerson and co. in ‘Exile’ - available from tomorrow lunchtime.
Before then, here's an exclusive first-look at Mark's latest column ...
It goes without saying that we have all waited a long time for this moment to arrive. Ever since our last – and to date only – home fixture with supporters against Sale Sharks back in December, we’ve been patiently waiting for this occasion, and a chance for more of our fans to experience our new home at the Brentford Community Stadium. I hope you will all be impressed.
With the roadmap out of lockdown now becoming clearer, we are really looking forward to welcoming fans back into the stadium for our final two home fixtures of the Gallagher Premiership season.
Tuesday's fixture against Exeter Chiefs and our penultimate match of the campaign versus Wasps will see up to 4,000 supporters in attendance – a significant step forward as we return to what we all hope will be a brighter future after a tough 15 months or so.
The whole rugby family deserves credit for helping the game navigate its way through this pandemic. From the authorities to the clubs, to the players and staff – everyone has played a key role in keeping the sport alive in the most testing of times.
The support from government has been critical – a huge help in keeping professional and international rugby going, resulting in more TV coverage than ever before for fans during lockdown, something that I’m sure will serve the sport well over the coming years.
Rugby clubs are an integral part of their local communities and that has never been more apparent than during this period. Our ‘Powering The NHS’ initiative with Powerday last year was a great success and we are looking forward to following up on that incredible work by extending an invite to the NHS and other key workers to attend a London Irish home fixture early in the 2021/22 season.
As I say, it’s been a collective effort from everyone, and a huge thanks also has to go to our amazing supporters. Your support, generosity and loyal commitment has been truly remarkable and I’m sure you can’t wait to get back to doing what you do best over the next few weeks and into next season – backing the boys and cheering them on!
We’ve waited a long time for this – let’s enjoy it together.
Come on you Irish!