Local council clears the way for London Irish to return to West London 19 years after it left the capital
By Bernard Purcell
London Irish RFC, the club led by businessmen Mick Crossan and Phil Cusack, is set to return to west London nearly 20 years after it left the capital. It follows the decision by Hounslow Council late last week to allow rugby to be played at Brentford FC’s new 20,000-seater stadium in Lionel Road.
The club was last season demoted from Rugby’s Premiership but has been steadily reversing its decline with a view to returning.
It has been playing its games at Reading’s Majedski Stadium since 2000 but has often been taken to task for being “neither in London, nor Irish”.
Steps were taken to restore the Irish element when Crossan and Cusack led a consortium of Irish businessmen – of which Crossan is the biggest single investor – to take over in 2013. They installed former player and Kildare man Bob Casey as Chief Executive.
Although the club saw its playing fortunes decline the management took it out of huge debt and to a new HQ and training grounds in Hazelwood. The holding company for their investment in the club, London Irish Consortium, filed returns showing it had gone back into the black, posting profits of £248,723 for the year ended June 30, 2016.
Last week Hounslow Council removed the final obstacle to the club’s return to London when it granted a license for rugby to be played at the forthcoming new stadium for Brentford FC in Lionel Road.
London Irish is contracted to play its home games there until the 2025-26 season but it is understood a break clause would permit Reading to release London Irish from this in time for August 2019.
London Irish Chief Executive Bob Casey was delighted by this first step towards “a return to our roots in London”.
“The council’s decision is very encouraging news for London Irish. The ability for a professional rugby club to also play at the new Brentford Community Stadium has always been a desire of the football club.
“London Irish share common values and a community ethos with Brentford FC, which augers well for a future commercial relationship.”
Mick Crossan is Chief Executive of Powerday waste management and recycling, based at Willesden Junction, and the club’s main sponsor.
Phil Cusack owns PF Cusack, a leading supplier of contractor tools, personal protective equipment, signage and traffic management. Both men, especially Crossan, support several Irish community sporting ventures ranging from GAA to boxing and, of course, rugby.