England

Wasps' Ricoh move 'will break partnerships'

Ricoh Arena Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Coventry City have seen crowd numbers fall since their first game at the stadium

A man who spent nearly 40 years at Wasps Rugby Club says the move to Coventry will break "partnerships" with local people near their current home.

Former player and director of rugby Rob Smith said he would not go to the Ricoh Arena, which the club are to buy into.

He said Wasps had links with schools near their High Wycombe home.

Coventry councillors are supporting a deal to sell the council's 50% share in ACL - the company that runs the Ricoh Arena - to the Premiership club.

Wasps have said the decision to move has not been taken lightly.

'Too far'

Mr Smith said: "You've got (Leicester) Tigers, you've got Northampton Saints, you've got Worcester... and Coventry Rugby Club itself.

"They've been into the (local) clubs, into the schools trying to drum up their support for their clubs for some 20 years or more - or a lot longer in the case of Coventry itself.

"We've been doing the same in our area in Buckinghamshire, in Middlesex and Oxfordshire and all those links and all those partnerships that have been built up over a long, long time with clubs are going to be broken."

The former player said the Ricoh Arena was "too far away" for him to travel to.

But he said Wasps' relationship with Coventry Rugby Club, who play at the Butts Park Arena, could be "a very positive one in the end".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Wasps used to be based in London, but have played in High Wycombe for 12 years

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) said the Professional Game Board (PGB) have also agreed to the Ricoh Arena deal.

Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood has said the club would continue to communicate with season ticket holders to explain what they would offer them to thank them for their loyalty.

He has said: "The reality of our situation is clear - less than two years ago Wasps was just hours away from going out of business."

Wasps' relocation to the West Midlands would be purely for matches and will not come into conflict with the academy systems run by the neighbouring professional clubs to the Coventry area, the club has said.

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