LONDON Irish have confirmed they will leave Madejski Stadium in Reading at the end of next season.

Rumours of Exiles’ imminent departure from the ground they have shared with Reading FC since 2000 has been rife for several years.

Club officials have now announced they will relocate back to London at the end of the 2019/2020 campaign.

While a large number of Irish fans hail from the London area, news of their departure will still come as a blow to the supporter base they have built up in Reading, despite dwindling attendances in recent years.

They have formed a number of closer relationships with local clubs including Rams RFC, Reading RFC, Reading Abbey RFC and Tadley.

But a new, groundshare agreement with Reading’s Championship rivals Brentford FC has been on the cards and is now certain to go ahead.

Work on the 17,250 capacity Brentford Community Stadium in Lionel Road is progressing well and Bees recently confirmed they will leave Griffin Park at the conclusion of the 2019/20 season.

Irish’s departure is not expected to have a significant, financial impact on Reading FC, who could now share Madejski Stadium with the club’s successful women’s team, who currently play home matches at Wycombe’s Adams Park.

London Irish’s President Mick Crossan says the new stadium in Brentford is ideal for the club’s future needs.

“In moving to the Brentford Community Stadium we feel confident that we will be able to attract a larger supporter base to join us as we build for the future, reaching out to our previous west London catchment area, to Greater London and the Irish diaspora throughout the UK,” he says.

“We are therefore very pleased to have agreed this deal with Brentford's management and are looking forward to working closely with them to make the Brentford Community Stadium an outstanding home for us. Our special thanks to Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Mark Devlin, Conor Hayes, Alan Walsh and all at Brentford Football Club for facilitating this partnership. I can't wait to see the team run out to play its first game in 2020.

“The stadium will be an outstanding venue. It is the right size in a great location and will provide a superb match-day experience for our supporters and sponsors alike. We’re looking forward to recapturing the special atmosphere and all-day experience we had at The Avenue, where ‘The Craic’ was born.

“The fantastic facilities at Brentford Community Stadium will complement our unrivalled training base at Hazelwood, which is the spiritual home of the whole London Irish family all the way from the minis and juniors in the amateur club up to the professional team, and having the two within easy reach of each other was a significant part of our decision-making process.

“The excellent transport links will mean that our existing and new supporters alike will find the stadium very accessible. We will be working hard with our existing supporters including all those based in the Thames Valley to highlight the various routes into the Brentford/Kew area given the adjacent M4 and existing train and Underground services, as well as the new Crossrail connection which opens in 2019 linking Reading into west London.

“Importantly, we also have the full support of both Brentford FC and Hounslow Council, who are very keen to see London Irish play at the stadium and to fully explore the synergy between the two clubs particularly in terms of their excellent community programmes."

He added: “I would also like to take some time to thank everyone at Reading FC who have made us feel welcome at the Madejski Stadium over the past 19 years and are most accommodating landlords – especially Sir John Madejski, Nigel Howe, Bryan Stabler, Ray Booth and, latterly, Lady Sasima Srivikorn, Mr Yongge Dai and Miss Xui Li Dai.

"I would like to wish Reading FC every success in the future."

“Thank you as well to the supporters from the Reading area who have become part of the London Irish family since 2000, and we hope you will continue supporting us on our journey in the future.

“Finally, I would like to thank the London Irish Board of Directors, current and past, for their hard work in steering the realisation of the London Irish vision and securing the financial stability of the club.”

“I’m delighted that we are now able to finally announce that London Irish will play their matches at Brentford Community Stadium from the 2020/21 season,” Brentford FC’s Chairman, Cliff Crown, said. “We are building a high-quality stadium fully equipped and ready from day one for both Premier League football and Premiership rugby.

“Like us, London Irish has a long history in the area and prides itself on having strong roots in the local community. We look forward to continuing to work with them over the coming months to support their successful return to the capital.”

Reading FC CEO Nigel Howe stated: "As a club, we have thoroughly enjoyed a strong long-term relationship with London Irish who have been excellent partners for nearly two decades at Madejski Stadium.

“We understand and agree with their decision to move back to their heartland and appreciate that, as Brentford prepare to move into new stadium facilities being built in closer proximity to their Sunbury training base, this is the right time for them to relocate and play their rugby closer to the club’s London roots.

“We naturally look forward to working alongside London Irish during the remaining months of their tenancy and everyone at Reading Football Club would like to wish them every success for the future.”