Aviva Premiership
London Welsh facing bleak future
ESPN Staff
April 16, 2013
London Welsh's Paulica Ion reflects on his side's defeat to Leicester, London Welsh v Leicester Tigers, Aviva Premiership, Kassam Stadium, Oxford, England, September 2, 2012
London Welsh now look certain to be playing Championship rugby next season © Getty Images

London Welsh chief executive Tony Copsey has stepped down after less than six months as the club faces having to make drastic financial cuts following their likely relegation from the Aviva Premiership. Among other proposals being considered is a move back to their traditional home in Richmond.

The announcement came less than 24 hours after Kelvin Bryon, whose investment saved the club from financial uncertainty and funded their rise to the top flight, called time on his support, leading to concerns over London Welsh's financial stability.

Although there is a slim chance they will remain in the Premiership, it rests with the winners of the Championship not meeting the minimum standards criteria required for promotion. As Newcastle seem set to secure the title, the Welsh have already started planning for a streamlined future.

"I'm obviously very disappointed to be stepping down," Copsey said, "but given the situation I did not feel carrying on in my current capacity was the best for me or the club."

While Copsey's departure is likely to be the first of a number of cost-cutting moves, of more concern is the urgent need to find a new backer.

"Despite heavy investment by certain other people, serious and sustained efforts to identify further major potential investors have proved unsuccessful thus far as have attempts to try and attain a more equitable means of central funding," said chairman Bleddyn Phillips. "We will of course continue our efforts on the above matters and this is certainly one factor which will have a bearing on where we may base ourselves for next season."

Staring into the abyss?

© Getty Images
  • However they might like to try to gloss over the situation, London Welsh's flirtation with the top flight could leave the club facing financial meltdown with its major backer pulling out and a raft of outgoings that will take some time to stem. Just as they brought in players at the start of the season, they will have to shed them as quickly and will also find it hard, given budget cuts, to replace them with the calibre needed to push from immediate promotion from the Championship. Unless there is another sugar daddy in the wings - and it seems there is not - then the real risk is they could go into freefall. And if anyone thinks that's something peculiar to football, just look at Orrell.

Phillips also said that the club was reviewing where they would be playing next season. They controversially moved from Old Deer Park to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford when they gained promotion last season but it seems unlikely they can afford to remain there in the Championship.

"A number of people have speculated that given the enormous local support built up over the past months in the Oxford region, we should continue to play our rugby in that area," he said.

"Others have contended that having had a very worthy and dignified season of Premiership rugby in Oxford, we should perhaps now think about returning to our roots in Old Deer Park.

"Either case does not present an easy solution. Clearly, to have an Oxford-based Championship club would require in the first place an appropriate venue and at an appropriate pricing or cost arrangement. The present rental charges would be prohibitive and render it financially imprudent to continue there.

"All that can be said for the moment is that we are considering all options and will come to as early a decision as possible having taken soundings from all our stakeholders."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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