Aviva Rugby Premiership 2012 Preview - Part 1

London Welsh After a thrilling win during the two-legged final of the Championship, London Welsh only cemented their place in this years Premiership competition a few weeks ago, having taken on the establishment and won. Their promotion doesn€™t come without its downside, though, so this should be a rather interesting season for all involved. The troubles with Welsh€™s promotion were caused by Premier Rugby€™s insistence that the facilities at each club reached a certain minimum standard. This takes a number of factors into account- from number of urinals, to primacy of tenure (ie which teams name is number 1 at the stadium, causing problems for those clubs that share space with a much better funded football team). To combat this, Welsh have moved their home stadium from Richmond€™s Athletic Ground to Oxford€™s Kassam stadium (a move of over 50 miles) which, whilst still the ground of Oxford United, solved many of the other problems. Premier Rugby weren€™t entirely happy with this arrangement, but after a court order they have reluctantly complied. I can€™t help but feel, however, that Welsh have been forced to shoot themselves in the foot by moving this far away from their original home (and wonder whether they really needed to move stadium if the other conditions were relaxed). This team has overcome incredible odds in the Championship with a great deal of support from their fans. I just don€™t see, with Premiership champions Harlequins only 10minutes drive from Richmond, why their fans (apart from the most dedicated) will travel so far to Oxford for a home match (to see their team lose 9 times out of 10). This will result in either shockingly low attendance figures, or increasing need to sell the sport to a new town, one which already has a deep history set in football. Ironically, their first away match of the season (at Harlequins) will likely see their highest €˜home€™ supporter attendance of the season! Player To Watch: Gavin Henson makes another return to the premiership, with the hope he€™s finally managed to shake off his demons- only time will tell but he has the potential to be a high impact player at relatively low cost due to his past indiscretions. 2012-2013 Outlook: Bottom 2- Welsh are going to struggle with the increased pressure of the top league. Likely to face many challenges, most of all financial, they will impress most by avoiding instant relegation next year.

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Former TV Exec now enjoying a calmer existence... Big lover of all things animated and sci-fi with a few guilty pleasures alongside