EXCLUSIVE: London Irish need greater finance to compete warns Crossan 

London Irish owner Mick Crossan has launched a plea for new backers to step forward after admitting he can no longer afford to sustain heavy losses.

The Exiles re-enter the top-flight after their play-off final victory over Yorkshire Carnegie with an exciting young English coaching team at the helm, but Crossan, who’s company Powerday has covered annual deficits of £2m-£3m, knows that without extra finance they will struggle to compete.

Irish lost more than £2m in season 2015-16, their last in the Premiership, and with average crowds in the Championship falling to just 4,000, Crossan will stump up nearly double that amount this year after maintaining a Premiership-standard squad.

Irish’s turnover of just £8.7m was the second lowest in the Premiership in 2015-16, while only Sale and Newcastle had smaller wage bills. A £2m cash boost from top-flight central funding will help but Exiles require far more than that to prosper.

Crossan, above, told TRP: “The challenge first and foremost is to stay in the Premiership and build on what we’ve created in the Championship. In that respect, taking a step back has not been the worst thing because we’ve rebuilt.

“But financially relegation has been tough and if we want to build London Irish back to the club it can be, we need to get more people to invest.

“I need people to help with the bills. My bank balance was a lot better before I took over London Irish three years ago and my wife will testify to that, but I took on a challenge and I’ve always done that. Sometimes your heart rules your head and London Irish is a passion I’ll never waver from, but we now need more help funding-wise.”

Crossan added: “We’ve got a fantastic training facility at Hazelwood, one that’s hosted NFL teams, England Rugby and the All Blacks, and we’re in the throes of doing a deal with Brentford for a return to London, so things are rosier. But it’s vital we find new backers because I can’t keep funding losses of £3m. We need to share the pain.

“It’s not a sustainable business model and although this season’s been an incredible journey, it’s something we must urgently address.”

London Irish are in the same position as Bristol last year, having to play catch-up with top-flight sides whose transfer business is already complete.

However, Crossan believes that with the right backing the club can once again rival London big guns Saracens and Harlequins for trophies.

Crossan said: “Brendan Venter, our technical director, believes we can replicate what Saracens have done and there’s no reason why not. We’ve got a great young English coaching team led by Nick Kennedy and they’ve done a fantastic job in restoring our academy to a point where we hope to never again lose our best young players.

“It wasn’t long ago that we were in a Premiership final, made a Heineken Cup semi-final and were attracting crowds of 12,000-14,000 on a regular basis, but now we need new backers to step forward and help us achieve our dreams.”


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