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RUGBY UNION: Most fans want London Welsh to stay in Oxford, says chairman
LONDON Welsh are more likely to remain in Oxford next season than return to the capital.
The Exiles say more fans support them staying put than going back to Old Deer Park, Richmond – but the club have yet to confirm plans for 2013-14.
Welsh will play in the Championship next season after Newcastle’s promotion to the Aviva Premiership confirmed their relegation.
Chairman Bleddyn Phillips said: “There are at least two or three opportunities available to us in terms of ground location in the region for next season (including the Kassam Stadium, where we have the option, but not obligation to renew).
“There have been a number of discussions with several grounds and local clubs and we are very close to finalising what we trust will be an optimum solution for the club in both financial terms as well as the level of facilities available next season.”
He added that Welsh “very much hope and expect a decision to be made within the next week to ten days”. Returning to Old Deer Park “remains very much an option, but which is perhaps less consistent with an avowed intent to remain a strongly competitive Championship/Premiership club”.
Phillips has previously stated it would be “financially imprudent” to stay at the Kassam Stadium unless their rent is reduced.
One possible new ground he mentioned in an interview with the Oxford Mail was sharing with Oxford University at Iffley Road. But otherwise it is hard to see where else the Exiles could easily move to in Oxfordshire.
Asked about a possible groundshare, Oxford Univ-ersity RFC, general manger Tim Stevens said last night: “There has been no formal approach to OURFC at all.”
Phillips added: “The level of attendance for ‘home’ games is likely to be demonstrably higher if we continue to play in the Oxford area and thereby strengthen our following and support base.”
Phillips also stressed that Welsh now have the financial resources they need to compete at the top of the Champ-ionship next season, despite losing several key players, including captain Jon Mills and hooker Neil Briggs.
He said they would soon be announcing eight new signings as part of “a very strong squad” with “a clear objective to regain our place in the Premiership”.
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