London Irish Rugby Club has upped its ambition to return to the capital by opening talks surrounding a proposed groundshare with Brentford FC.
Brentford are well advanced with their own plans to move to a new home in west London – a 20,000-seat facility in Lionel Road, not far from their current ground, Griffin Park.
And Irish confirmed on August 15 that it had “begun formal discussions with the London Borough of Hounslow to explore the potential to play rugby at the new stadium”.
The club has been linked to a number of possible stadium developments in London over the past ten years, and it sees this move as a first step in assessing a potential relationship with the Bees.
In a statement, Brentford said that it “welcomes these exploratory discussions with the council” and that it recognised Irish’s “long-term aspiration to move back nearer to its roots”.
Brentford were granted planning permission to build on the Lionel Road site in December 2013 and, earlier this month, saw the council activate the compulsory purchase order for the ground, which is projected to open in 2018.
Under the terms of the original planning agreement, using the stadium for the playing of professional rugby is prohibited.
However, this was due to the club not being involved with any partnership with a rugby outfit, necessitating the talks between Irish and the council.
The Exiles were founded in 1898 when a group of men, united by a sense of Irishness and a passion for rugby, decided to form a team.
They played their opening match at Herne Hill Athletic Ground, beating Hammersmith Rugby Club 8-3
Since 2000 they have played their home matches at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, but the club has long made it clear that it intends to return to London.
Last season they were relegated to the Championship, though they are by far and away the bookies favourites to return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
Regarding the advancements to the stadium proposals, the club said it will “continue to review all options and keep its supporters and stakeholders informed”.