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28 October 2014

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You are in: Berkshire > Sport > London Irish > London Irish Features > EXCLUSIVE: London Irish sign long-term deal with Reading FC

London Irish at the Madejski Stadium

London Irish at the Madejski Stadium

EXCLUSIVE: London Irish sign long-term deal with Reading FC

The Madejski Stadium will remain the Exiles' home until 2026, after a new long-term agreement was signed by Reading FC and London Irish.

A new deal has been agreed between Irish and Reading Football Club, which comes into effect immediately, extending Irish's tenancy for the next 18 years.

Irish first came to Reading in 2000, taking over from Richmond who were the tenants.

Since the first match, attendances have risen - last season's average was over 11,000 - more than double that of their debut season.  22,648 people came to watch the match against Wasps last season - a record for the Premiership.

London Irish chairman, John Conlan, spoke exclusively to BBC Radio Berkshire about the new agreement.

You can hear the interview by clicking here:

Alternatively, read on....

John Conlan

We've been there since 2000 - we've built up a very good supporter base.  We've been made incredibly welcome.  It's a brilliant stadium - the best in rugby outside Twickenham and the best club stadium in Europe.  At the end of the day, it was an easy decision to make.

John Conlan

John Conlan

We had an initial arrangement that we made with Reading Football Club that was expiring in two seasons time and both ourselves and Reading Football Club felt we should sit down and look at the long term.  All of these things usually take a bit longer than you expect, but the decision to commit to the long term was an easy decision.

  • When the original deal was made back in 2000, London Irish were in a position of relative weakness in the negotiations.  Are the terms of this agreement more favourable to London Irish?

First of all, they reflect more of a longer term partnership.  If you cast your mind back to when we first came here, it was the beginning of professional rugby and there was a doubt in everybody's mind that perhaps professional rugby would not survive in the UK. 

Our predecessors at Reading - Richmond - had failed.  There was a feeling at that time asking if professional rugby would last. 

We now know that it will.  It's doing well, it's prospering both here and in France.  This deal reflects the longer-term future of professional rugby.

  • Were Reading keen to have you stay?  Steve Coppell made some comments about the state of the pitch last year....

"It's brilliantly positioned, it's a very good stadium and quite frankly any other option was dismissed very quickly."

John Conlan

Yes indeed.  Our discussions with both John Madejski and the chief executive, Nigel Howe, have been very friendly and we've both been keen from the beginning that we had a longer term agreement.  There were some problems with the pitch last year, but the pitch has been re-laid and it's in perfect condition.

  • Is there a get-out clause for London Irish?

It would be a very expensive option either for London Irish or for Reading to get out of this particular arrangement.

  • There have been persistent rumours about a move to Brentford.  Were there ever any truth to those rumours?

London Irish and other professional rugby clubs have been approached with all kinds of deals and all kinds of arrangements for stadia elsewhere.  But our decision was easy to make.  Our business is established in and around the Thames Valley. 

We draw from an extremely wide area, both from traditional support from west London, the Thames Valley and right down to the coast.  It's brilliantly positioned, it's a very good stadium and quite frankly any other option was dismissed very quickly.

  • You'll be hoping for some more good news tomorrow, with a huge game for London Irish coming up.

It is a huge game and we hope to see that support there for the guys tomorrow.  We're sitting on top of our league table.  Yes, we need to win two more games.  If we do that Perpignan come second.  We'd love to see a home draw for the Heineken Cup - why not play Munster.  What a game that would be at Reading!

last updated: 11/01/2008 at 09:13
created: 11/01/2008

Have Your Say

Happy to have rugby at the Madejski Stadium? Is there a better Premiership rugby ground in the country? Let us know what you think about the new deal.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

J Sawyer
very pleased with new deal.Great result saturday Good luck for next saturday.Interesting article in the programme as usual Graham.

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