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Exiles in for the long haul

Thu, 27 Dec 2012 12:11
Tony-copsey On-mills-_-bleddyn-phillips London-welsh-_-premiership-
He has played the game at the highest levels
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London Welsh were forced to work harder than most to earn their Premiership status and they are not going to give that privilege up easily.

The Exiles - wo went through administration, were bought back from the receivers and ultimately won a legal appeal brought by the club against the RFU just to get into the top flight - are putting in place plans for a long term future in the Premiership.

Following the very encouraging start to life in the Premiership of elite English rugby, securing four wins and 20 points by the half-way point of the season, London Welsh have taken steps they believe ensure their long-term future in the Premiership.

The first of those steps is the appointment of an experienced new CEO, Tony Copsey - who will take charge in his new role at the club from January 1.

Copsey has enjoyed an outstanding career both on and off the rugby field. In his playing days he was capped 17 times for Wales, played for the Barbarians, and had a very successful career playing for the Llanelli Scarlets for some ten seasons, Saracens for three seasons and London Welsh itself for one season.

Off the field of play, Copsey was Managing Director at Harlequins for seven years between 2000 and 2007 before becoming CEO at London Wasps, where he was based for two and half years. He then formed a management consultancy company, where he worked with clients such as London Scottish and Saracens.

Club Chairman Bleddyn Phillips expressed his "delight" at the appointment.

"Not only does he [Copsey] have an excellent skill set for the job and extensive experience managing top clubs in the Premiership, but he has played the game at the highest levels and indeed [not too many years ago] packed down with the club's head coach, Lyn Jones, whilst they both played at Llanelli," Phillips said.

"We look forward to Tony coming on board and helping the club in its off the field challenges as effectively as the team players and coaching squad have thus far tackled the tests on the pitch."

Copsey spoke of the "wonderful rugby history and heritage" of London Welsh as one of the reasons for hisdecision to join the Exiles.

"There is no doubt that London Welsh is currently on a very exciting journey which also means they face probably one of the biggest challenges currently in the sport," Copsey said.

"It is a real privilege and extremely exciting to be asked to help lead that challenge. I am very much looking forward to working with my old team mate Lyn Jones, the Chairman Bleddyn Phillips together with John Taylor, Steve Lewis and all the players and staff."

London Welsh also confirmed that John Taylor will continue to play a central role at the club in his new role as Vice-Chairman and lead ambassador helping and supporting Copsey as he settles in. Taylor helped guide the club through both the difficult times and into the club's rise into the Premiership and will continue to represent the club at certain key functions and in maintaining close links with professional and commercial organisations associated with the club. He will continue to work with, and for, the Board to ensure London Welsh does all it can to stay in the top flight of English rugby.

Taylor added: "I am very pleased to see someone of Tony's experience and standing join the club and we all wish him well and look forward very much to him joining us as our new CEO.

"When I took on an executive role at the club in 2009 I agreed on the basis that it would be a two year project. Due to the circumstances London Welsh has found itself in I have already extended that to more than three years but I would expect and indeed wish to reduce my commitment by the end of the season as I work with and help Tony settle in."

Commenting further Phillips said: "I would like to thank John for the very considerable contribution he has made to the club over the last three years. London Welsh is very fortunate to have someone of John's stature and calibre working for it and I am pleased that he will continue to be an important cog in the club's development as we seek to ensure we remain in the top flight of English club rugby."

The club also revealed that they will be enhancing their commitment to Oxford.

Since September 2012 London Welsh played all their key matches at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. Over the course of the season so far the crowd base has grown dramatically from that seen in the Championship. Base crowd levels are now around 4,500 to 5,000, but have been as high as 7,500 for the opening game against Leicester Tigers.

The upcoming fixture against neighbouring team London Wasps scheduled for Saturday, December 29, is expected to attract the biggest crowd of the season. This support from the local communities, schools and rugby clubs re-enforces the club's decision to move to Oxford. Having already started to build an active community rugby programme in the Oxford area the club is pleased to announce that it has embarked on the search for new training facilities in the area as well as laying the foundations for a rugby academy programme.

The key investor in the club over the past few years has been local businessman Kelvin Bryon. London Welsh would not have reached the heights of the Premiership without his historic and continued support, both financially and across all operations of the club. As the club progresses into its next key phase new investors are being targeted from the Oxford area and beyond, including businesses, entrepreneurs, and lovers of rugby. The club is intent on widening its investor base and solidifying its new roots in Oxford and further afield and is seeking to raise additional funding in this next phase of its development with more ambitious plans further ahead if all goes as well as one would hope.

Commenting further on these matters, Bleddyn added: "For a professional club to survive in the modern world of Premiership rugby it requires the support of enthusiastic and committed investors as well as the full backing and following of a supportive fan base.

"Our new fans and supporters in Oxford, as well as our established and loyal following from Old Deer Park which remains very much our spiritual home and the continuing base for all our Amateur, mini and ladies' rugby teams, need to know that we are committed to both retaining our position in the Premiership and to developing our participation and engagement in all aspects of rugby and community sport.

"We are keen therefore to ensure that we have in place the necessary investors for the next phase as we seek to build on the momentum thus far generated during our first four months in the Premiership. We will do all we can as a club to ensure that we are successful in achieving this goal."

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