The Avenue

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The Avenue
London Irish's Final Game at Sunbury - - 251557.jpg
Final Game at The Avenue, against Saracens
Full nameThe Avenue
LocationThe Avenue, Sunbury-on-Thames, TW16 5EQ
OwnerLondon Irish Holdings Ltd.
London Irish
London Irish Amateur

The Avenue was a rugby union stadium and training pitches in Sunbury-on-Thames that belonged to the English club London Irish since 1931 when the team purchased 11 acres (4.5 ha) to establish a club there. The team moved to the Stoop Memorial Ground in 1999 and then subsequently to Madjeski Stadium in 2000, but retained The Avenue as a training venue and location for pre-season friendlies and Aviva A League matches. In 2014 the club began to train at its new, larger Hazlewood facility in the same town, including the "London Irish England Rugby Academy" and the grounds are being converted to surburban housing interspersed with some parkland.


The land was purchased in 1931 for £1,280 (equivalent to £85,428 in 2018) to be the home stadium for London Irish, before they left in 1999 to play at the Stoop Memorial Ground.[1] The ground then began to be used by the London Irish Amateur side.[2][3] [4] It was also used as a training venue for London Irish and venue for London Irish England Rugby Academy.[5] At its peak, The Avenue could hold up to 6,600 spectators.[6]London Irish played their last senior league game at The Avenue on 1 May 1999 against Saracens.[7]


London Irish published in 2009 its plans to demolish its training facility that was its ancestral home ground to replace it with 400 houses while relocating the club offices and training to redevelop nearby Hazelwood Golf Centre.[8]

At the local government planning committee meeting, the councillors of all parties opposed redevelopment, citing various grounds, including limited public transport, increasing existing peak hour congestion, too few bedrooms per dwelling and initially a highly urban density as well as some character shortcomings.[9][10] As a result of the plans, local residents set up protest groups against the plans,[11] such as the Sunbury Opposes London Irish Development (SOLID) which shared some resources with Lower Sunbury Residents Association.[12] On 15 April 2010, around 500 local people attended a protest march against the plans, claiming that London Irish just wanted to make money off the land despite the club's claim that it would engage with the community.[13] The plans did however have the support of the Rugby Football Union, Premier Rugby, Sport England and the Rugby Player's Association.

As a result of the negative reaction from the local residents and councillors the club downsized their plans from 400 to fewer than 200 homes,[14] as well as including construction of a health care centre and a residential care home to go in with the developments.[15]

In 2010, London Irish applied for the planning permission to demolish the grandstand and replace it with residential houses, however the plans were rejected by Spelthorne Council.[16] The plans were rejected because in the council's eyes, the development "...would have resulted in an unacceptable lose (sic) of an outdoor sports facility." It was revealed that the council had received 857 letters opposing the plans with only 250 letters in support of them, with 206 of the supporting letters coming from outside the borough.[17] London Irish announced that they would appeal against this decision.[18] This appeal led to the council announcing an inquiry to be held on 7 June 2011 and lasting 12 days to discuss the future of the ground. [19] The London Irish Chief Executive Andy Martin said that the move was needed as the ground lacked sufficient rugby pitches and that they had the senior team sharing facilities with the amateur and junior teams. [20]


  1. ^ London Irish Rugby Club London
  2. ^ Wild Geese on brink of the title Archived 15 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Directions to The Avenue, Sunbury - London Irish Training Ground and Offices Archived 25 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "London Irish announce pre-season friendlies". BBC Sport. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Training Venues". London Irish. Archived from the original on 17 December 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  6. ^ "LONDON IRISH 47 BATH 22". 18 April 1999. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Match Report: 01 May 1999 London Irish v Saracens". Archived from the original on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  8. ^ Adam Courtney. "London Irish pledges to consult Sunbury folk". Surrey Herald. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  9. ^ "UPDATED - London Irish proposals for Hazelwood and the Avenue - plans to be unveiled in September". Spelthorne Liberal Democrats. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  10. ^ Adam Tyler-Moore - Labour, Spelthorne (12 April 2010). "Adam Tyler-Moore - Labour, Spelthorne - Surrey Herald - Elections - Labour Party". Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Residents out in force for London Irish protest". Get Surrey. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Protest march over London Irish Surrey HQ plans". BBC News. 10 April 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  14. ^ Mairs, Gavin (5 April 2010). "London Irish threaten to leave Sunbury headquarters". Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  15. ^ Sunbury in Touch - Spelthorne Conservatives Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Appeal against double rejection of London Irish plan
  17. ^ Spelthorne Borough Council (27 April 2010). "Planning committee - 27 April 2010". Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  18. ^ "London Irish rugby club HQ plans are rejected". BBC News. 28 April 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  19. ^ Spelthorne Borough Council. "Appeal London Irish". Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  20. ^ "London Irish move must happen Andy Martin". BBC Sport. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.

Coordinates: 51°24′52.12″N 0°24′45.57″W / 51.4144778°N 0.4126583°W / 51.4144778; -0.4126583