London Irish boss Andy Martin: Why I love ReadingBy Andy Martin
July 24, 2012
The Oracle’s latest campaign is Love Reading. On The Oracle’s Facebook page, residents can share tips about the town – from favourite restaurants to the perfect spot for a Sunday stroll.
Every month getreading will feature people’s reasons to love Reading. This month it is London Irish rugby club boss Andy Martin.
Before taking up the post of London Irish chief executive, Mr Martin had never been to Reading, but now, some three years later, he says Reading has become a second home
“I worked in Canary Wharf and would often drive past Reading, looking up at the Madejski Stadium and the wind turbine from the M4. Now the stadium and town is a big, important part of mine and my family’s life. We are in Reading during the week and at the weekend and love it.
What really stands out is how welcoming Reading people are. Not just to me and my family, but to London Irish in general. The club has been fully embraced and made to feel at home.
The backing of the mayor and council, businesses such as Ridgeway group, BBC Berkshire and the Reading Post has helped make that happen, and because we’re committed to Reading and not here temporarily the club receives terrific local support. Our home crowd is like a 16th man.
I grew up in the North West and used to watch Liverpool FC. What struck me about those times was the pivotal role pubs had. They were hubs for fans to meet and collect tickets, and in Reading we’ve introduced something similar to turn pubs into community focus points for London Irish fans.
The Three Guineas, The Swan, The Gateway and The Horn led on this, and more have since joined.
Supporters can meet for lunch and a drink, and then hop on a bus that brings them to the stadium.
We also arrange pub nights for fans to meet players. Reading has truly fantastic pubs, and it’s been a pleasure to work with them.
It is great that Reading FC has won promotion. The Madejski Stadium is a proud Reading symbol, and according to rugby fans surveyed by Rugby World magazine, it is also the best place to watch rugby – better than Twickenham.
Before every match we convert it from a football stadium to a rugby one. We remove every bit of football you can see.
This means removing the pitch markings, replacing sponsorship with our own and taking down goal posts and putting up rugby ones.
Yet what makes the Madejski extra special and sets it apart from other stadia is the family atmosphere.
The facilities are ideal, as they are set up so children can meet and spend time with players.
My favourite place in Reading is underneath the Madejski north stand before a London Irish home match.
We transform it into The Craic, a little bit of Ireland where the Guinness flows, Irish bands perform and children play on bouncy castles and are entertained by Eek O’Hairy, the world’s largest leprechaun, who plays the sousaphone while riding a penny farthing. The Craic is extremely popular with home and away fans.
I am often involved in community initiatives. Last year I abseiled down The Blade, and recently I completed the Mizuno Reading Half Marathon.
Reading really put on a show that day. I remember people lining the streets, bands playing in the background and the food and drink stations being superbly manned by friendly people who were very encouraging.
I loved running into the Madejski for the end of the race.
Being on pitch level as part of the action and entertainment made a very nice change to watching from the directors’ box – an experience I’ll always cherish.”