Crystal Palace’s offer to hostmatches at Selhurst Park has been turned down by the rugby club. At least for now.
Last week, Inside Croydon reported how Palace co-owner Steve Parish had contacted senior officials at the Exiles, letting them know that the south London venue could be available if it would help them keep their dream of Premiership rugby alive.
The Rugby Football Union, the sport’s governing body, has blocked London Welsh from promotion, despite a hard-fought victory in the Championship play-off against Cornish Pirates.
London Welsh’s traditional home, at Old Deer Park in Richmond, is unsuitable, with a single stand and capacity of less than 2,000. The club has a contract with Oxford’s Kassam Stadium to stage their games there next season, but the RFU has decided that they do not have “primacy” over the stadium: the ability to stage their Premiership games at times to suit the league and their Sky Sports television paymasters.
London Welsh dispute this, describing the decision as “inequitable, unreasonable and unfair”, and they have threatened a legal challenge.
Parish has undoubtedly put down a marker that Selhurst Park is available in the future for top-flight rugby, a notion that has received overwhelming support from Palace fans in online polls, as well as from a local Croydon councillor.
Today, confirming the Inside Croydon story, the South London Press reported Parish as saying of London Welsh: “The message came back that they are pretty committed to the Kassam Stadium.
“So I don’t think it is for us. We wish them all the best – it is a travesty that they are not allowed to play in the Premiership. I don’t understand what the rugby authorities are trying to achieve. It does seems a bit harsh on them.”
Timothy Godfrey, Labour councillor for Selhurst ward on Croydon Council, told Inside Croydon that he feels that the 11 league home games for a Premiership rugby club, with expected gates of 4,000 to 6,000, would help businesses in the local area, and benefit Palace’s bottom line.
“It would be an interesting development to bring rugby to Selhurst Park,” Godfrey said.
“If this proposal was ever to be developed, we will need Crystal Palace to consult with local residents on how they could be accommodated and what changes would be needed to parking restrictions.”
Godfrey highlighted that Palace’s average home attendance last season was at least three times bigger than what might be expected for a rugby club, so that parking problems on rugby days would be minimal; he even suggested that the Sainsbury’s branch might remain open.
“Long-standing residents will remember the chaos and aggravation from when first Charlton and then Wimbledon shared the ground between 1985 and 2003,” Godfrey said.
“Clearly we don’t want to go back to having large scale football events up to twice a week, but the rugby idea might be just small enough to make the benefits outweigh the negatives. If talks ever become serious we will need a meeting between CPFC and residents as soon as possible.”
- Inside Croydon: comment and analysis about Croydon, from a publication that is not based in Redhill.
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- Palace make late bid to bring Premiership rugby to Selhurst (insidecroydon.com)
- 64% of Palace fans would welcome rugby at Selhurst Park (insidecroydon.com)
- London Welsh to appeal RFU ruling (thisislondon.co.uk)