London Welsh put move to Witney ground on ice

The Oxford Times: London Welsh’s Mike Denbee scores against Plymouth Albion at the Kassam Stadium in November. London Welsh’s Mike Denbee scores against Plymouth Albion at the Kassam Stadium in November.

LONDON Welsh Rugby Club will continue to use Oxford’s Kassam Stadium as its primary ground even if the club achieves promotion, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

Club chairman Bleddyn Phillips said although a site at Witney was being considered for the future, it currently lacks the necessary facilities that would allow the club to play Premiership rugby there, if they go up from the Championship.

The Oxford Times:

Club chairman Bleddyn Phillips

An inspection will be carried out at Kassam on March 23 by a private auditor, acting for the Rugby Football Union (RFU), which will assess the ground’s suitability for top-level club rugby.

Mr Phillips said: “I have to make sure that we are capable of playing Premiership rugby in Oxfordshire.

“At the moment, there are not the right facilities at Witney, so there is no point in setting up an inspection.”

West Oxfordshire District Council gave landowner On The Edge and the club planning permission to build temporary stands at the Witney site, on Downs Road, in February.

And although it remains a project that the club is pursuing, Mr Phillips said they would need “millions, but not tens of millions” of pounds in support from investors in the county, if the former Witney Town FC ground was to be suitably developed.

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The Oxford Times:

Witney Town FC, which London Welsh had applied for planning permission to revamp.

Mr Phillips said: “We have made it clear to the RFU that we do have plans for Witney.

“The planning permission we received [for temporary stands there] was a very im-portant bridge to cross.

“We will be keeping that option open while we play at Kassam.

“Rome was not built in a day and it is not to say that we won’t be in a position to move to Witney in three to five months time.”

When the Oxford Mail contacted Kassam Stadium landlord Firoz Kassam about the news he declined to comment.

But vice president of rugby giants Barbarians FC and Chipping Norton resident Geoffrey Windsor-Lewis said that securing the investment London Welsh is seeking could prove to be problematic.

He said: “Everything is changing in rugby at the moment and teams that are less established are finding it difficult.

“If you do not get a big crowd every Saturday you are going to have problems.

“They could well manage it, but personally I can’t see millions of pounds of support coming in from Oxfordshire.

“You would have to find someone with the money to support them through thick and thin while they build up, and that is not an easy thing to do. They would also have to get promoted to attract that kind of investment.

“I am a great supporter of London Welsh, so I hope they do.”

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