BRIAN FACER is confident London Irish have a bright future ahead of them despite the recent uncertainty surrounding the club’s future ownership and the looming fear of relegation.
Facer was brought in as the Exiles new CEO from Northampton Saints after 12 years with the Aviva Premiership outfit, where he worked his way up from marketing manager to commercial director.
The club reached the 2011 Heineken Cup final and were 2014 Premiership and European Challenge Cup champions, which came alongside a huge period of growth in commercial success.
Owner Mick Crossan and the London Irish board have spoken to a number of investors about joining the current shareholders to help develop the club.
Last month it was reported that a consortium of Irish based investors had lodged a £3.5 million bid for the club.
Facer said: “There is not going to be a takeover. We have been transparent with the fact that we are open to new investment and Mick [Crossan] has stated previously that he is committed to London Irish in the long-term.
“The details of the proposed investment are confidential and still in the very early stages. The club is about to reach its 120th anniversary and we want to make sure that the club is around for another 120 years. We will be able to inform the public and our fans on a number of announcements regarding the club’s long-term future by March or April that should have a positive impact on player recruitment and success on the pitch.”
The reported new investment has created a degree of uncertainty regarding the club’s long-term future, as it has struggled to readjust to the rigors of Premiership rugby since winning promotion last season from the Championship.
But Facer insists the club is in a strong position to achieve commercial and on-pitch success.
He said: “The club is in a strong position, there is no external debt which is crucial for the club moving forward. We own our training ground, which is an excellent facility and a great base for us to develop new home-grown talent. More importantly, this is a unified club throughout the coaching team, playing staff and management which gives us the best chance of winning games.
“We have an excellent product here and it will of course be easier to sell if the club is successful on the pitch. The playing and commercial sides of the club are linked, you cannot have one without the other. But the product on the pitch must be performing in order for us to attract new investment and expand our commercial opportunities.
“When I arrived at Northampton, they were bottom of the Premiership but we achieved huge success. The commercial success only came once the team started challenging for trophies which is where we want London Irish to be.
“We have a five-year strategic plan in place that will look to improve the match-day experience for fans and see the club back challenging for domestic and European honours. There cannot be that many changes made too quickly as it would be unwise to implement these changes mid-season. But any decision that is made will be with the club’s best interests at heart.”
The club continues to play its home games at the Madejski Stadium but has been linked with a move to the new Brentford Community stadium in west London, where rugby will be played at the venue.
He said: “We are reviewing a number of options in terms of our long-term plan stadium plans. We are contracted to stay at the Madejski Stadium until 2026 so the club has a lot of leverage from this point of view.
“We are currently carrying out feasibility plans to determine the best course of action beyond that period, whether that means being in Reading or London.”
Irish are currently bottom of the Premiership, with just one league win all season, and are nine points adrift of safety with 11 league games remaining.
They are already out of the European and cup competitions.
Questions remain whether the club will restructure its management policy where shareholders currently have a strong input into how the club is run.
Facer added: “The club is run by the board and I must take my direction from them in terms of how the club operates. But as with any company, the shareholders are entitled to have their input into the how the club is run and are privileged to any decisions which will affect the club’s long-term future.
“The fact that I was an external appointment from the London Irish family shows what direction the club wants to move in but any decision that is taken by myself or the board will always be for the best of London Irish.
“The last couple of weeks have been very positive in terms of results. We targeted the two European Challenge Cup games against Krasny Yar and the two Anglo Welsh Cup games to pick up some victories.
“This has put us in a much stronger position heading into the upcoming Aviva Premiership games, where we must pick up some positive results. London Irish is a Premiership club, that’s what we’re associated with so we must do everything we can to remain in the division.”