Coventry & Warwickshire

Wasps move to Coventry's Ricoh Arena backed by council

Ricoh Arena Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Coventry City agreed a deal to return to the Ricoh Arena in August

Wasps Rugby Club is set to move to Coventry's Ricoh Arena after a deal was agreed with the city council.

Councillors "unanimously agreed to the proposals", a spokesman said.

Coventry councillors supported a deal to sell the authority's share in ACL - the company that runs the Ricoh Arena - to the Premiership rugby club, but the move has angered many Wasps fans.

The council said the move guaranteed Coventry City Football Club's continuing tenancy at the stadium.

The football club would also have "primacy over match fixtures", it added.

The move by Wasps, who were traditionally a London team but have played at Adams Park in High Wycombe for the past 12 years, has been approved by the Professional Game Board.

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

The city already has a long-established rugby union club, Coventry, which was formed more than 130 years ago and currently plays in National League One.

'Total disgrace'

Wasps said they were "delighted that Coventry City Council have unanimously approved the sale of their shares in ACL to Wasps" and that final details of the agreement would be confirmed on Wednesday.

"This decision has not been taken lightly, it has been a very thorough and detailed process and we truly believe this is the best option to secure a successful long-term future for the club," a statement said.

It added: "It is no secret that the club has been searching for a permanent home for many years.

"We are very excited to be in a position to fulfil this ambition and to be able to move to the Ricoh Arena; it is an outstanding arena in a truly fantastic city.

"We understand this is an unsettling period for our supporters and we will be holding a series of meetings for our season ticket holders, starting this week, where we can speak face-to-face to explain our decision and to address their concerns."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wasps played a Heineken Cup semi with Northampton at the Ricoh in 2007 - in front of many empty seats

But there was an angry response from many fans on Twitter. James Higson tweeted: "What do you suggest we do now then? 6 hour round trip to Coventry every weekend? Total disgrace, I'm no longer a Wasps fan."

Shane O'Brien tweeted: "Every single one of your ST holders should boycott the remainder of your games this year." And Kristian Ross wrote: "Makes me sick to the stomach. The day rugby died and money won."

And Wasps player Tom Varndell said on Twitter: "Lots of tweets from @WaspsRugby fans who feel v upset & angry, as a player I ask plz keep giving us ur cont support, big games coming!!"


The ruling authority on Wasps' move

Wasps' move to the Ricoh Arena was ratified by the Professional Game Board (PGB) a ruling body made up of members from various bodies, including The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby.

Wasps' relocation to the 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 - champions Northampton, Premiership rivals Leicester and Championship side Worcester.


The council jointly owns the stadium with the charity the Alan Higgs Trust.

The council spokesman said: "The deal ensures the council makes a return on its original investment of £13.7m into the Arena development alongside significant investment into grassroots and community rugby development across the city."

In August, League One side Coventry City agreed a two-year deal with ACL to return to the stadium, following a long-running row over rent.

The councillors' vote was held in private because of "commercial confidentiality".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Coventry Rugby Club - pictured playing against Sale in 2000 - is long-established in the city

Ann Lucas, leader of the Labour-run city council, told the public part of the meeting councillors were aware of the "seriousness" of the decision and that they represented residents.

"We are people who live in Coventry, who love Coventry," she said.

She later said in a statement: "This deal would not have happened if it threatened the future of the Sky Blues or Coventry Rugby Club.

"This is the most important decision this council has ever made about the future of one of its best community assets and we would not have made it unless we were confident it was the right thing to do."

'Coventry FC's home'

Coventry City FC supporters' group Sky Blues Trust and several other groups earlier issued an open letter urging the council not to take a final decision at the meeting and to include the organisations in a consultation process.

Image caption Coventry Council leader Ann Lucas said agreeing the sale was among the most important decisions made by the authority

However, following the meeting, Sky Blues Trust spokesman Jan Mokrzycki said it was a "new start" and the trust would seek a "good relationship" with its new landlord and hoped the football club could stay at Ricoh for longer than the two-year agreed deal.

Wasps said: "It's important to us to make clear that we see the Ricoh as the home of Coventry City Football Club and are committed to it staying that way, and that we are already working with Coventry Rugby Club to ensure both clubs thrive and grow."

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