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RUGBY: London Welsh chiefs reveals club want to stay in Oxford
LONDON Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips says the club will do all they can to remain in Oxford.
But he warned that a stay in the city would depends on “being financially prudent”.
Most intruigingly, however, Phillips revealed that such was their desire to build on a year of hard work both on and off the pitch, the Exiles could look for other locations to play in the county if the cost of staying at the Kassam Stadium was beyond their means.
One potential alternative could be Oxford University’s Iffley Road.
Welsh’s relegation from the Aviva Premiership was confirmed last week after a 31-14 defeat at home to North-ampton Saints.
On the same day, the club’s principal shareholder, Kelvin Bryon, revealed he was withdrawing his backing to the club at the end of the season.
A day later, chief executive Tony Copsey also resigned.
Phillips admits it has been an extremely testing season, and says that the club must make quick, but correct decisions, over their future.
“Nobody likes uncertainty,” he said.
“Clearly everything depends on the level of funding we have, but if we could stay in Oxford, we would very much like to.
“However, clearly we would not put the long-term future of the club at risk and would need to be financially prudent when reaching this decision.”
And as for a time-scale, Phillips added: “I think we need to decide over the next two or three weeks.
“It wouldn’t be fair on anyone to prolong the decision, so discussions have to continue to take place.
“We have built up a huge swelter of popular support from Oxford and the surrounding areas and have put a lot of time and effort into that.
“We would dearly like to stay and reciprocate the support we have had.”
Welsh have a get-out clause in their deal with the Kassam Stadium, which allows them to leave now that they are a Championship club.
Phillips said no discussions directly with owner Firoz Kassam have taken place, but said that the position of the club has been made clear to representatives of the stadium company.
When asked if there was a figure in mind that would help Welsh make a decision, Phillips replied: “That’s the million-dollar question.
“Or should I say the one-and-a-half to two million pound question!”
He added: “Present rental charges make it finanicially imprudent (to stay). We have to look at all options.
“While the Kassam Stadium satisfies the needs of Premiership rugby, the Championship has less criteria that need to be fulfilled.”
That could mean Welsh stay in Oxford, but find another venue to play home matches.
“Possibly,” Phillips said. “I wouldn’t want to speculate because there are a lot of things that need to happen and many big decisions to reach.”
He continued: “We have to make sure that the well-being of the club can be assured, while staying competitive on the field.
“It’s not a six-figure sum, but a seven-figure sum, and we would dearly love to hear from rugby enthuasiasts in Oxford who can help us.”
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