It's good news for the Madejski Stadium pitch but not so much for Reading FC's balance sheet as fresh reports have linked stadium tenants London Irish with a move away from Berkshire.
Various media sources including Sky Sports are carrying the news that the freshly relegated Irish are in talks with Brentford to move back into the London area and share the club's new 20,000 seater stadium. That news had been rumoured for a while but now we have conclusive evidence of talks after Brentford gave the following statement to Sky Sports News HQ.
London Irish started formal discussions with London Borough of Hounslow on August 15 to explore the potential to play rugby at Brentford Community Stadium.
Before you get too excited, that stadium hasn't even begun breaking ground yet so any move would be a way off but it's not inconceivable to think they might opt to share Griffin Park for a season first. However, Irish begin their Championship campaign next month so they'll almost certainly be at the Mad Stad for at least one more season.
If London Irish do move the obvious benefit to Reading would be less games on a pitch that's struggled to keep up with the amount of sport played on it in recent seasons. With 23 Championship games, cup ties, Academy games plus professional rugby all being played at the venue, the pitch has gradually deteriorated, especially in recent years when the club's finances have been tight. With Jaap Stam wanting his team to keep the ball on the deck, any move that helps keep the playing surface flat and in good shape is welcome news.
The downside to the move is a drop in revenue, which stands to lose the club anywhere between £500k-£1m a season. The exact terms of Irish's tenancy are unknown but accounts from 2014 showed Reading FC made close to £600,000 in commission from London Irish games. The Rugby club currently have a contract until 2026 so that could be a loss of around £5-10m over the next decade.
Yet the financial reward from hosting Irish has dwindled in recent seasons as the rugby team have gone through several bad years on the pitch. Attendance figures are skewed somewhat by home games played at other grounds such as Twickenham but the club's average attendance has fallen from over 16,000 in 2010/11 to under 12,000 last season. The drop into the Championship is only going to see those crowds fall further and while Irish have a good chance to go straight back up, Bristol can attest to the problems of getting back among the game's elite.
So it could be the end of an era at the Madejski Stadium but would you be sad to see them go? Let us know in the comments section.