Majority owner Mick Crossan says he’d welcome other new major shareholders if the club is to ‘be all that it can be’ after sensational Twickenham comeback
London Irish Rugby came back with a sensational bang last week-end. A huge crowd of 56,000 turned out at Twickenham to see it tell rugby fans it is serious about its return to the Premiership.
The Exiles beat Harlequins at Twickenham with a bonus point 39-29 victory in front of a hugely enthusiastic rugby fans.
But now the debt-free club’s owners, including majority 70-per cent owner Mick Crossan who stepped in to save the club a few years ago, want to attract new investors to back an ambitious £10m, three year plan to go beyond the Premiership and become European champions.
Powerday boss Crossan plans to bring London Irish back into the capital in two years time where plans are underway for it to share Brentford FC’s new Lionel Road stadium in West London.
The club has NO debt and a Surrey HQ in Hazelwood – where the All-Blacks trained during the Rugby World Cup in 2015 – conservatively valued at £6 million.
Mr Crossan, who has featured on The Sunday Times Rich List in recent years, has, been providing the £3m a year lifeline to keep the club going.
He restored its finances, made it debt free, and changed the management and management culture.
It is in contrast to rival Premiership club Saracens which has debts of around £50m.
Crossan told the Irish World: “We’ve got a vibrant London Irish ethos, and that appeals especially to some of our antipodean signings.
We’ve also agreed with Ireland manager Ireland Joe Schmidt to look after some of the younger Academy players who could benefit with being out of Ireland for a while.
“Things are happening but if we are going to go all the way we will need other people like me and the other shareholders who want to back us and take us all the way. It won’t be overnight.
“I got involved because I saw what was happening to the club and something had to be done to save it, and we did.
“To those who like to say ‘Oh but you’re not London and you’re not Irish’, that’s just old hat. We’re very much coming back to London and, as I said, there’s a vibrant London Irish ethos that’s back, big time.
“We’d like to take that as far as we can go in Premiership rugby but to do that, we need more people like me.
“And, if you look at the last London Derby the crowd was something like 25,000. At last weekend’s Twickenham game we had 56,000 of whom 20,000 or more were London Irish fans.
“So the gates are out there for the right kind of rugby at the right venue.
“We have a generous smattering of international calibre players running through the side but this is augmented by an astute and robust recruitment programme undertaken over the last six months.
“But the club is very much aware that, to secure its Premiership status and go on to bigger and better things, success on the rugby pitch needs to be underpinned by a robust commercial programme and a funding regime to match it.
“The current shareholders provide the necessary £2m to £3m a year to get this far but more are if we are to sustain the Club’s future success and viability.”
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Mention the prospect of London Irish being embroiled in a relegation battle to stay in the Premiership, and you’ll get short shrift from Fergus Mulchrone.