|RUGBY BOOM TO AFFECT WYCOMBE
(Tuesday 25th November 2003)
With England crowned as World Rugby Union Champions on Saturday 22nd November, the knock-on affect for Wanderers' tenants London Wasps may have serious implications on their agreement to use Adams Park. The national media are already talking up how interest in the oval ball game will snowball following England's victory in Sydney and although that would be good news for Wasps it maybe bad news for Wanderers officials hoping to negotiate a longer term deal with the West London nomads. Wasps chiefs are worried they may outgrow the current capacity of Adams Park, while matchday traffic chaos has marred several of their higher profile games. Wanderers Financial Director Rod Tomlin confirmed this at the Fans Forum held after the AGM in October, commenting "They (Wasps) do have concerns over stadium capacity and issues of that nature but we are working with them pretty effectively to see if we can identify a very effective way forward for both of us"
Wanderers are currently in talks with their counterparts from London Wasps in an effort to thrash out a longer term deal for the rugby club at Adams Park. The result of the public inquiry held on 29th July was announced in favour of allowing rugby to be played at the ground under the terms of the original planning application and Wanderers want to get a new deal sorted as soon as possible with a five or ten year deal the aim.
Wanderers spent £15,000 on the appeal but have said this will be money well spent if Wasps can be persuaded to stay after the initial two year deal runs out on 30th June 2004. Wasps have an option to stay for a third year but this would have to be for a rental figure at least equal to the estimated £300,000 annual payment from the second year. Wanderers want to negotiate for even longer to help ease their financial problems and help justify the expense of installing the 'desso' pitch and undersoil heating, an expense that has forced Wanderers to extend an already heavy overdraft.
However, Wasps concerns over the capacity at Adams Park followed a highly successful debut season in High Wycombe. They announced a massive upsurge in season ticket sales at the start of this season compared to the same time last year. Figures released in early September showed Wasps had sold 3,545 Season Tickets compared to 2,365 at the start of the previous season. Their previous season at Loftus Road (2001/2) saw sales of 2,263 returned at the same stage. Wasps Chief Executive Alistair McLean said in a press statement earlier this season "We had one sell-out last season. We need to get to that to four or five this season, and push on towards selling out every match. If we did that we'd be just about at break-even." Adams Park currently has a maximum capacity of 10,000 limited by a planning obligation attached to the development of the East Stand (Hillbottom Road end). Further development has not been ruled out by Wanderers but this would be met by fierce opposition from local residents who seen little progress on the so called 'Green Travel Plan' that now has no legal binding attached to the rugby deal.
Meanwhile, Rod Tomlin, speaking at the Fans Forum in October, said the Club would hold out for a decent deal, saying "It will not be along the lines of 'well they want to stay here and we are willing to have them at any cost'. It has to be right for our business at Wycombe Wanderers and clearly Wasps need to make their own decision based on slightly different considerations."
Those considerations include a possibilty of Wasps returning to their previously rented home of Loftus Road. Wasps were forced out of Loftus Road when Fulham wanted to share QPR's ground while the development of Craven Cottage took place. Fulham are due to return to Craven Cottage for the start of the 2004/2005 season and with Wasps having contractual commitments to return to Loftus Road for a further eight years, there will be some hard negotiating ahead.
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