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Comment & Analysis | Sport

Comment: ‘We are the London Irish and we want our team back’

It's time for London Irish to leave Reading's  Madejski Stadium and come home
It’s time for London Irish to leave Reading’s Madejski Stadium and come home

THE MORE you look at most situations, the more you see that they are not black or white issues but instead varying shades of grey.

London Irish, as far as we are concerned, is not like that. To us, on first glance and after considerable thought over the years, it is a black or white situation. London should be just that – have a core of Irish players and play in London. If you’re not fulfilling either criteria then it’s simply not London Irish.

The pledged desire of the new owners to “make the club do what it says on the tin” is both welcome and the only sensible way forward.

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There does, however, seem to be a level of ambiguity about how the club is going to more resemble the on-tin billing. The commitment to recruit more Irish players is hugely encouraging. Public statements that the club will continue to play in Reading are not so encouraging.

The club are tied into a deal with the Madejski Stadium until 2026 so, we can only hope, the owners are showing consideration to the commercial sensitivities of that deal when they voice their commitment to the Berkshire venue.

Also, they have to think about the local support base that has backed the club since they moved west at the beginning of the century. Naturally, many, if not most of the fans there on matchdays now, are locals. Of course, they’d rather the club stayed put.

The new owners of London Irish from L-R: interim chief executive David Fitzgerald, President Mick Crossan and Phil Cusack  at the London Irish Press Conference today
The new owners of London Irish from L-R: interim chief executive David Fitzgerald, President Mick Crossan and Phil Cusack at the London Irish Press Conference today

With due respect to them and the magnificent support they have given, the only way they should be assured of seeing Premiership rugby in Reading is of the club is called Reading RFC. And it’s not Reading RFC, it’s London Irish.

It would be just the same if the situation was reversed. If there was a Premiership club called Reading and, a few years ago, they felt that their best option was to move to London, the capital-based locals could not really protest if Reading decided to return to their roots.

Sports clubs should live or die by who and what they are. Call us old-fashioned, but we don’t think moving city should be an option for anybody but baseball or gridiron teams. In this part of the world, teams are bound by their history and that is shaped by the towns they represent.

This argument that Irish people can easily get to Reading holds little water.

Anybody who has made the trek knows that it takes up your day. Paddington to Reading is less than half-an-hour. Most people don’t live in Paddington though. Then you have to get to the ground from Reading station. Then you have to do it all again on the way home.

Quite a number of people make this trip for every home game. Their loyalty can only be commended.

We respectfully disagree with Mick Crossan when he says that if you’re a supporter you will do what it takes to get to the game, travel over land and sea. He does this, for both Irish and Chelsea and fair dues to him for his commitment. Most fans aren’t like that though. Most don’t want to travel 50 miles for a home game and most won’t do so regularly. They’ll head out there for the St. Patrick’s Day game or the Christmas fixture, but that’ll be it.

Perhaps Crossrail will cut the journey time, but we don’t think it will solve the underlying problem from an Irish point of view.

Even if you invented teleportation and were able to beam fans from their front room to the East Stand of the Madejski in less than a second, the disconnect would linger. You’d still be watching a team that was London Irish in name and not in substance of locality and playing personnel.

london irish flags-n

Increasing the quotient of Irish players is a huge step in the right direction, but without a move back east it will be half a job.

We have been told by sources close to the club, who do not wish to be named, that they are keen to reconnect with their roots and are looking, in particular, at south-west London.

We hope the search is at an advanced stage and that the long lease with the Madejski Stadium can be cordially renegotiated.

The Madejski has been good for Irish, but Irish have been good for the coffers of the stadium too. That should be taken into account in any negotiations and the club, you would hope, would be showed requisite grace by their landlords.

It’s only natural that the new owners will have certain reservations about leaving Reading. It is a ground with fine facilities and the town is now the centre of the fanbase given that that is where the club have played in recent years.

Also, Irish sports fans have a reputation for being fickle. They’ll pack the place out to see a winning team, but aren’t so keen on following sides towards the bottom of the table. There is a degree of truth in that; however, we’d see this as more of a universal issue than an Irish one. People want glory these days.

But they also want to connect with a team that represents who they are.

We passionately believe that there is a huge latent support-base for London Irish within the M25. Anybody who has ever stood in Euston or Paddington when an Irish province are playing within striking distance will have been taken aback by the volume of London-based Irish rugby fans – all wearing red of Munster, the blue of Leinster, the white of Ulster, the green of Connacht.

Imagine all of those people dressed in a different shade of green. Imagine all of that fervour and emotion for rugby channelled not just into our teams from home, but for a club that truly represents who we are now.

From Kilburn to Clapham, Harrow to Wandsworth, Ealing to Archway, Eltham to Twickenham, we’re the London Irish. And we want our team back.


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7 comments on “Comment: ‘We are the London Irish and we want our team back’”

  1. H

    I don't support an Irish province and I'm not Irish but have watched London Irish since they have been in Reading. I hope that the club you see as yours thrives based on the narrow criteria you seem to think it merits. Shocking article

  2. Waltham

    so, you want "your" club back eh? - that'll be the one you've not bothered to support and the same club which has had to be baled out by others including the (English) RFU since professionalism..I haven't noticed huge numbers of Munster or other Regions supporters switching to LI colours whenever the Premiership or lower league squads are playing "in" The Capital. Also - just consider the economics of having to finance and build your own stadium (which is surely the ONLY other option than staying at the Madstad)..

  3. N

    Sad to read this article. One of the things that attracted me to LI was the open welcome to all. Only distantly Irish, and don't live in London, so it's not my club? As a season ticket holder for the last 13 years I feel I have some investment in the club, and the attitude of this article is not what the club I support is about.

  4. Jimmy

    Next week: why Arsenal and Millwall should switch back to their correct sides of the Thames.

  5. E

    Completely agree with everything in this article and it's great to see a little glimmer of hope that we might finally be coming home. I'm not Irish but have been a member and season ticket holder for the last 23 years. As the article states the club is London Irish and should never forget that, we did and so have the Welsh. It's sad but fingers crossed that will change soon. That doesn't mean that others aren't welcome, the opposite has always been the case, as I say, I'm not Irish.

    I have no doubt that our potential for growth would also be greater in London. With only Queens now in London I constantly hear people say the reason they go is because they're the only team left in London. Couple that with the existing support who didn't go to Reading plus any of the existing Reading fans who make it and it's a no brainer.

    Some people online also keep going on about the "Reading 4" as if this is an actual thing. All that was was spin fed to supports 12 years ago to try and justify a ridiculous move in the first place because the club failed to get a 15,000 seater stadium and, like most clubs at the time, delusionally thought they would be getting 15-20k at each game following professionalism. At most we've doubled attendances which is completely inline with overall attendance increases, ie, we would have got that wherever we were.

    I understand the concern people have who now live in Reading and the surrounding areas and follow the club, I felt the same thing 13 years ago but as the article states the club is and should always be London Irish.

    Please please please, bring back the London, bring back the Irish.

  6. Chris Oxley

    Terrible article, I have not purchased Irish post before & instead a link bought me here, what a xenophobic publication this appears to be.

    You can not write about a club in the guise of a fan & then cite it taking up your day as a reason to not go. Recently the club posted a picture of a fan going to a guaranteed win Amlin match when only 4000 soles turned up, with this poor guy traipsing through 3 feet of flood waters - now that is a fan!
    I myself have Irish blood from my great grandmother but I'd not class myself as Irish, I also come from Hayes, from behind botwell school where every other person is Irish or of Irish decent but I moved when I bought my 1st house and now live in Loudwater High Wycombe so I'm no longer London. When I lived in hayes I got the train and I went to each and every game, now I'm in Wycombe I either drive of complete a 2 and a half hour public transport journey to support my team, there I sit in row A, getting all het up, cheering the boys on
    This article pushed the fact that a club is all about its name - it's not
    Woolwich Arsenal were a south London team and the north south divide is a bigger gulf than an inside / outside the M25 one.
    Wasps, quinns, tigers, saints - what is in a name?
    Now, I agree that with the history of the club and the Irish name, it's mad to not hone in on it but that is in the attitude, the entertainment, the announcer and in the Craic
    It can not be with a push for fans from a different country, that is not the London Irish culture and to be quite frank I am mortified to see that idea in print - particularly when you state that the Irish like to follow a winning team and won't follow a club the bumbles along the bottom. 1) that hugely disrespects our Irish fans 2) If that were true no club requires their main fan base to be fair weather fans 3) the rugby premiership is hugely competitive, look at the cherrys who regularly finished in top spot, now down the bottom with us, all 12 teams what to be in the top 4, only 4 can be. We also want huge crowds, the paddys day debacle is becoming less liked by the main fans each year as there is little focus on the game.
    Players - should be Irish? How stupid do you have to be to even believe that is possible let alone right or wrong. The Irish national team want players that play out of Ireland, what decent Irish player is even going to consider a move to us and why? Our current players of Irish decent by and large seem to be with us by birth right and to be frank don't cut the mustard!
    Why oh why do we want to limit the pools we take both our players and fans from?
    The truth of the matter is London Irish is an English club, playing in the English league out of and English town with a large amount of English fans - with a proud Irish link and history

    Or would we rather the following players never ever wore our jersey as statements like the above do them a disservice
    3 Armitage brothers

    But hey, let's avoid signing players like that, let's move out of a fantastic stadium and move to something small where we can't grow and let's abandon every fan we've bought since going to reading, let's, with our current form go back to London and compete for bums on seats with the queens, by trying to bring in people that as per the above article are little more than glory hunters.
    Funnily enough, though all the bad years we have had recently, with a sponsor going broke and picking up a relatively small aircraft company, I fail to remember out staunch supporter the Irish post sticking their hand in their pocket and emblazoning the front of our shirts, come to think about it, neither did allied Irish bank, any of the big Irish companies - so 1 question as we have been asked how loyal and dedicated are we to the support and development of Irish players (and fans), considering the complete lack of large Irish companies sponsorship, reluctance of the top top Irish players to play for us and an admission that many Irish only turn up when you are winning...... How supportive of us are the Irish?

    • Anthony

      Completely agree with you Mr Oxley. I'm a Saracens fan, but you don't see me running around denouncing Christianity and trying to take over Bethlehem!

      I have also been following LI for the past two years (I have my LI mad Girlfriend to thank/blame for this), and I have been to numerous games in these two seasons, including the Gloucester and Worcester games over Xmas. I have to say that over these past two seasons, I have found myself becoming more of an Irish fan, than a Sarries fan (of whom I have passionately supported since 2000), because Irish are a Rugby Club that anyone can support, and you are welcomed in with open arms, and are not a business that tries to be "innovative" and polarise fans (like Saracens).

      Yes, respect tradition, proudly celebrate the history of this club, but don't get stuck in the past!

      And the argument to move back to London is farcical. I'm also a London Broncos/Harlequins RL fan, and used to go to Twickenham Stoop for almost all home games. Now I live just outside of North London, on a commuter train line. And I can tell you it's an absolute ball-ache to get to the Stoop. I know plenty of RL fans who live in North/East London, and they WILL NOT travel to Twickenham because it is just too long and too stressful a journey. You move LI back to London, and not only will you lose some if not most of the Reading-based fans, but there is no guarantee you will pick up fans in London.

      You go back to 2008, when LI were 80 minutes from the Heineken Cup Final, how many of those players were Irish? I can think of Big Bob Casey and maybe a couple of others, that's it! It wasn't a squad made up of a majority of Irish players.

      And on a side note, I've just taken a look at your sports section, and in 4 pages of sports news, I have found only 2 LI related articles. GetReading has that many articles on LI almost A DAY! So do us all a favour Irish Post, stick to your GAA, your Munster, your Leinster, your Ulster and your Connacht, and don't try to jump on the LI bandwagon and claim it as your own!


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