Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry Rugby Club welcomes Wasps' move

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Media captionWasps' buy-in was approved on Tuesday

The boss of Coventry Rugby Club says Wasps' move to the Ricoh Arena could "spark a genuine interest" in sport in the city.

Councillors approved a multi-million pound deal for Wasps Rugby Club to buy into the Ricoh on Tuesday.

But president of Coventry Rugby Club Peter Rossborough said he was disappointed to be "omitted completely" from any discussions with the council.

"It's a bit of a blow to us but we're very resilient," he said.

Councillors said on Tuesday they supported a deal to sell the authority's 50% share in ACL - the company that runs the Ricoh Arena - to the Premiership rugby club.

'Bounce back'

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

Wasps have confirmed Jaguar Land Rover as new sponsors.

The club, traditionally a London team, have played at Adams Park in High Wycombe for the past 12 years.

Coventry Rugby Club was formed more than 130 years ago and currently play in National League One at the Butts Park Arena in the city.

Former England international Mr Rossborough said they would "bounce back" to work closely with Wasps "to create the best possible future for both of our clubs for our city."

Nick Eastwood, Wasps chief executive, said the decision had not been taken lightly.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wasps fly-half Andy Goode was abused by some fans on Twitter after saying the move was "exciting"

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

He said the club would continue to communicate with season ticket holders to explain what they will offer them to thank them for their loyalty.

'Fruitful relationship'

He also said the move did not now mean people had to choose between Coventry Rugby Club or Wasps.

"It's about collaboration to make sure both clubs thrive and help each other, building attendances for each club and giving supporters even more rugby to enjoy.

"Wasps will work hard to become part of the community and help support the development of grassroots rugby in Coventry and Warwickshire."

In August, Coventry City announced their return to the city by playing their League One games at the 32,000-seat stadium.

Mr Eastwood said Wasps were "delighted" to see them back and added: "We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the Sky Blues."

But Mr Rossborough said City fans were "dismayed", like he was, not to have been consulted over the Wasps move.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Captain James Haskell said the club was moving forward

"It's been a massive exercise in non-democracy," he said.

'Not huge crowds'

About 27,000 people came to see Coventry City play their first game at the Ricoh last month but crowd numbers have fallen since then.

But Mr Rossborough said he hoped the relocation by Wasps would have a positive impact on sport in the city.

"Wasps could spark a genuine interest in not just rugby but all sport across the city," he said.

"Even with the Sky Blues being at the Ricoh, it was great that first game when 27,000 turned up, but there hasn't been huge crowds since."

The council said the move guaranteed the football club's continuing tenancy at the stadium and they would also have "primacy over match fixtures".

Sky Blues chairman Tim Fisher told BBC News on Wednesday he felt positive about the move but had not spoken to Wasps.

But more than 2,000 Wasps fans have now signed an online petition to try to keep the club in the London area.

Wycombe Wanderers chairman Andrew Howard said Wasps' departure from Adams Park would have a "significant impact" on the football club's finances.

He said it was "a shame" Wasps were "moving so far north".

'All become clear'

Mark Huckerby, who watches Wasps with his family, said: "I've already said very, very clearly that if we are playing in Coventry next year, my Wasps shirt will be returned in the post. I won't be needing it any more. I won't be able to go, my parents won't be able to go and the family thing that we've done for 18 years will be no more."

Edward Overend, who has been going to Wasps since he was five and now has three boys, said: "How am I supposed to tell my children that Wasps have disappeared? Three hours away effectively from where I live.

"What am I supposed to tell my six-year-old who is so into the club that it was his birthday at the weekend and all he wanted was Wasps gear."

Wasps fly-half Andy Goode, from Coventry, was criticised by some fans on Twitter when he described the news as "exciting times".

But he replied: "To the Wasps fans who are upset, I understand but all will become clear and please stay with us. To the abusers you're not real fans."

It is thought the team's first game at the Ricoh Arena will be in December against either Castres or London Irish.

Rugby Aviva Premiership sides that share grounds

  • London Irish with Reading United (football)
  • London Welsh with Oxford United (football)
  • Sale Sharks with Salford City Reds and Manchester United reserves
  • Saracens with Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers (athletics)

Welsh Pro 12 side Ospreys also share the Liberty Stadium with football Premiership side Swansea City.

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