Haskell issues plea to fans


Published: Wednesday 8th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Wasps captain James Haskell has responded to protests over the club’s move to the Ricoh Arena by making an emotional plea to fans to understand the reason behind the decision.

Supporters are angry over the two-time European champions’ inability to find a suitable site in London once it was determined that only a move from their current base at High Wycombe’s Adams Park would safeguard their future.

In an unexpected development Wasps, who have acquired a 50 per cent interest in Arena Coventry Limited from Coventry City Council, will host their first fixture at their new home as early as mid December.

As a Wasps fan since the age of 12 and the longest serving player in the squad, Haskell understands the dismay felt by supporters, but is equally aware of the realities facing the club.

Just two years ago insolvency was avoided by a matter of hours before a holding operation mounted by a consortium bought time for current owner Derek Richardson to complete his take over.

“People are very sceptical of change, it’s human nature,” Haskell said.

“But look at the situation we were in – we were an hour away from going bankrupt. We were losing £3million per year for a long period of time.

“Derek Richardson came in and absorbed £10million worth of debt.

“Our deal at Adams Park meant that for every £1 spent we got 15p. There was no other option than to move.

“I have intimate knowledge of where this club has been and how close we were to disappearing.

“Players should be solely focused on the rugby and on performance, but at Wasps at times it’s been ‘are we getting paid and where are we living?’ As of now that’s changed.

“This stadium, facility and the matchday experience – the whole set up will only make the club better.

“Fans have been shielded from how much of a struggle it was, but this move has now secured the future of Wasps.”

Opposition to the move has been voiced on Twitter, blogs and message boards and director of rugby Dai Young is braced for a “mixed reception” at Adams Park for Sunday’s Aviva Premiership clash with Bath.

The resentment is based on Wasps being moved from their traditional roots in London and the south east and the lack of consultation with supporters over what is being viewed as England’s first ‘franchise’ club.

In reply Wasps present a convincing argument for relocation based on the financial requirements for survival.

Richardson has spent £10million keeping the club afloat in 18 months with £3million being lost each year.

They claim the Ricoh Stadium’s conference, hotel and entertainment facilities offer revenue streams that will enable them to thrive.

Local sources claim the move will cost in the region of £20million once the remaining 50 per cent share owned by The Alan Edward Higgs Charity has been bought.

“This is a watershed moment in the history of Wasps and the most important decision the club has ever made,” Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood said.

“It will help our ambition to re-establish the club at the pinnacle of domestic and European rugby and will guarantee the long term success.

“To make that happen we need world class facilities on and off the pitch. Those facilities will allow us to attract world-class players.

“We have a motto among players and supporters at Wasps – once a Wasp, always a Wasp. We realise we’re testing that sentiment and significantly so.

“We want Wasps fans to come with us and we want Coventry to become the first rugby city.”

Eastwood confirmed that Coventry Football Club will return to the Ricoh Arena with the clubs playing on different days, Sundays being allocated to Wasps.

Work on a training facility within easy reach of the ground will commence once an appropriate site has been found.

Published: Wednesday 8th October 2014 by The News Editor

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