(Thursday 9th September 2004)
London Wasps have been told by the RFU that they must give an answer by the end of the year on whether they intend staying as tenants of Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park for the 2005/6 season and beyond. Meanwhile, in a strange twist of fate, Wasps' have appointed a new Chief Executive in the form of David Davies who up until the start of the current season had been in the CEO role at former Wasps landlords Queens Park Rangers.
While still with QPR, Davies was involved in the discussions as Wasps weighed up a return towards the end of the 2003/4 season, commenting to the Hammersmith Times back in March 2004 "They (London Wasps) have a contract with us that says they have to return either this year or next and if they don't come back this year then we will be due a substantial amount of money, though it is open to negotiation." He went on to add the following week "As far as we (QPR) are concerned there is a contract between the two clubs and we expect them to abide by that, but as yet we have heard absolutely nothing from them. I would genuinely hope that we don't have to resort to taking the matter to court, but I have been here for four years now and in my experience nothing really goes smoothly. I don't really want to go down the road of taking a former chairman (Chris Wright) to court."
Less than six months on and Davies finds himself on the other side of the negotiating table. In an interview for official London Wasps website, Davies commented "While some QPR people may raise an eyebrow, I have never hidden the fact that I am a 'rugby man' through and through. Iím very grateful that this opportunity came to me and I donít intend to let it go." Davies, who replaced Alistair McLean as CEO at Wasps, is returning to London Wasps having previously been involved at executive level between August 2000 and June 2001 in addition to his position at QPR. He added "When I was CEO of QPR and Wasps, my time was divided between the two. What Iím welcoming is the focus that I can give Wasps. There are some issues at Wasps that we need to concentrate on, especially the whole Wycombe/Loftus Road saga."
London Wasps are currently contracted to stay at Adams Park until the end of the 2004/5 season but have expressed openly their reservations regarding the 10,000 capacity limit and are understood to have held secret talks with Council and local land owners with a view to solving traffic and capacity issues. Davies confirmed that talks had taken place, saying "The current issues are that we have to work with a number of agencies to insure what we want to do in terms of the right capacity for that stadium is obtainable. I suspect if stuck at a capacity of 10,000, then we need to go back to Loftus Road. However, in saying that, the agencies around Wycombe are looking at ways for us to increase the capacity." However, Davies is sitting on the fence with regards to his own preferred option, concluding "For those people who are reading this and who are for us staying at Wycombe, the reassurance I can give them is that we are looking at the possibility of staying. In saying that, Loftus Road can hold 18,000-19,000 people and we know there is a market for a top European Rugby team to be playing in West London. I feel the community in West London would welcome Wasps back with open arms."
More speculation on a return to West London will also be fuelled by the revelations in the press this week regarding QPR's intentions to submit plans to increase the capacity of Loftus Road from 19,000 to 28,000. Rangers estimate the development will cost in the region of £2-3million and QPR's majority shareholder Gianni Paladini commented to the Evening Standard "The council are very keen for it to go ahead because they want us to stay in Shepherd's Bush." Whether Wycombe District Council can manipulate the legal wheels to extend London Wasps stay in High Wycombe, remains to be seen.
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