A belated happy New Year – and I hope you are all keeping safe and well.
This certainly isn’t the way I would have chosen to have my first communication with you all in the wake of starting as CEO earlier this month. Let’s hope that we will be able to return to more normal interaction once we’re through this latest lockdown.
I have been a Board Director here since 2013 and during that time have always marvelled at the team spirit and togetherness of the club, both amongst the staff and players, as well as the Exile Nation fan-base. It’s those characteristics that we’re all showing yet again at the moment, as the country continues to navigate its way through the pandemic.
The current lockdown rules thankfully still allow professional rugby to continue. As you all know, we were unable to fulfil two fixtures prior to the start of the year and our last two European fixtures were called off owing to COVID-19 protocols.
On the plus side, we have now returned zero positive tests in the last three weeks of testing, which is a credit to everyone concerned, given the geographic location we work and live in.
On the pitch, Declan, his staff and the squad are busily preparing for Sunday’s home fixture against Newcastle Falcons at the Brentford Community Stadium, ahead of a busy schedule in the Gallagher Premiership. It will be great to see the team back in action after a frustrating period, especially after the momentum that was building from recent performances, in particular the outstanding comeback against Harlequins last time out. It goes without saying that we wish the team well for the remainder of the season.
Off the pitch, it is more important now than ever before that we keep in touch with each other, remaining mindful of each other’s personal circumstances and continue to support one another as we have done since the pandemic began. Our staff are constantly challenging each other to activate ideas around engagement and interaction, to ensure you – the Exiles supporters – are as close to the club as possible, despite not being able to attend fixtures.
The one big difference this time is that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, with the positive news that vaccines are being rolled out across the country. Hopefully we will return to a more normal life in the not-too-distant future.
It goes without saying that we look forward to welcoming you all to our wonderful new home at the Brentford Community Stadium as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. I’m sure the lucky 2,000 of you that managed to get a ticket for the Sale fixture will vouch that we’ve moved into an incredible stadium, which – as many of our players have said – is right up there with the best of the best in rugby. Personally, I can’t wait to see a full-house, and we know that day will come.
Finally, I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Brian Facer for all his efforts over the last three years. He did a great job for London Irish in the most challenging of circumstances – relegation, promotion and a stadium move in the middle of a pandemic – and mostly always with a smile on his face! We wish him well for his new venture at British Cycling and he will always be welcome at London Irish in the future.
Take care, stay safe.