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RUGBY UNION: Premiership on Kassam agenda
Premiership rugby could be coming to Oxford next season after the Kassam Stadium won the right to host the second leg of the Championship play-off final.
London Welsh are using the ground as their ‘home’ second leg against Cornish Pirates in the play-off final, which will be screened live on Sky TV on Wednesday, May 30.
If the Exiles win promotion it could see top-flight rugby becoming a fixture in Oxford next season.
The club’s Old Deer Park ground in Richmond is unlikely to meet the Premiership entry criteria, so they are looking to ground-share, with the Kassam Stadium one of four candidates.
London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips revealed last week two grounds had already been audited by consultants on behalf of the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby.
Their release ahead of the game said: “London Welsh have taken this opportunity to showcase the Kassam Stadium because it is one of the grounds where the club could play next season if they are promoted to the Aviva Premiership.”
The Twickenham Stoop, home to Harlequins, and Brentford FC’s Griffin Park have also been linked as alternatives.
The Kassam, home of Oxford United FC, has experience of high-profile rugby union games after hosting the European Challenge Cup finals in 2002 and 2005, which were both won by Sale Sharks.
Michael Doyle, general manager at the stadium, felt the potential of a ground-share was a great move.
He said: “We’re obviously delighted to have this opportunity to bring rugby to the stadium.
“If you look across the country sports grounds are unbelievably under-used and the reality is in these economic times we have to find other ways to access revenue.
“A ground-share works well with London Wasps at Wycombe Wanderers and London Irish at the Madejski Stadium – it certainly hasn’t harmed Reading’s football.
“The pitch here was laid with the intention of hosting both rugby and football – it wouldn’t compromise the surface.
“The final itself will be a great night and we hope London Welsh win.”
United chairman Kelvin Thomas said: “Before we react it would be best to wait until we know the full details.
“Ground-sharing, depending on the details, might bring some positives to the football club, but the fact remains London Welsh would need to win first.”
Rumours of a ground-share have existed almost as long as the stadium has been open, with owner Firoz Kassam keen to attract a rugby club alongside Oxford United.
Wasps, Bristol, Moseley, Wakefield and Henley have all been linked with moves in the past, without success.
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