|WASPS TO STAY
(Tuesday 30th March 2004)
After protracted negotiations, Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps issued a joint statement to the press on the afternoon of Tuesday 30th March that the rugby club would be taking up their option to stay at Adams Park for a further year. The decision had gone down to the wire with Wasps required to inform the RFU by 31st March of their home ground for the 2004/5 season.
Wanderers' Chairman Ivor Beeks said he was delighted that London Wasps were staying, commenting "Itís good for Wycombe Wanderers, itís good for High Wycombe and I believe itís good for London Wasps." He added "We have developed a great relationship with London Wasps over the past two years and Iím sure that this will continue right through next season and hopefully beyond.Ē
The one year deal will bring in an estimated £300,000 in rent for the Wanderers but this is offset with matchday costs and the ongoing situation with the Travel Plan. The Travel Plan was introduced at the start of last season and is far from meeting the requirement of reducing traffic movement on matchdays by 25%.
London Wasps Chairman Chris Wright commented on these issues in the statement, saying "We realise there are congestion problems around the area and we are continuing to source alternative parking and seek to improve access. The club has done exceptionally well since moving to High Wycombe, especially, with work done in the local community and of course our success on the field. Therefore we are staying and trust the fans will continue to support usĒ. He concluded ďSometime during the next 12-months, itís our intention to make a decision about where we will play our rugby for the longer termĒ.
The deal will be seen as a compromise by many onlookers. Wasps orginally proposed a five year deal but this contained conditions, including those relating to an increase in the capacity of the stadium. Wanderers turned this down but the case for the landlords was not helped by the news that Fulham are returning to Craven Cottage next season, leaving QPR as the sole users of Wasps contracted home for the 2004/5 season. Rangers Chief Executive David Davies commented to the Hammersmith Times "They 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." Rangers themselves are desperate for money but Davies added "To be fair I think they are in a more difficult position than us - they are stuck between a rock and a hard place - but I think they will want to negotiate, I have never known Chris Wright to want to do anything else."
During the discussions, news also broke that Sir Edward Dashwood had been approached with a view to providing access through the Dashwood Estate. A report in the Bucks Free Press in January 2004 quoted Wasps chief executive Alistair McLean as saying "We've had talks with Sir Edward Dashwood. There's been lots of talking but the talks have not gone far enough." The article prompted the switch board at the local council offices to be jammed on the afternoon of publication with local residents attempting to find more details. Chairboys on the Net has since learnt that no application for a new access road has been made and Wanderers denied any involvement in the talks. However, Mr McLean added "If we stayed long-term, something like a new access road would have to be a commitment, otherwise we can't stay." It's understood that there are several local Councillors desperate to keep Wasps in High Wycombe as they see it as a major boost to the local economy. However, this has to weighed up against the increasing traffic problems on matchdays due to Wasps success in attracting gates close to the current capacity of the ground.
Wasps tried to push up the capacity of Adams Park from the current 10,000 figure legally tied to the extension of the Hillbottom Road end. The idea was first rejected by Wanderers Safety Officer Richard Stanford and then formally by the Safety Advisory Board. The rugby club wanted an increase to 11,000 in the short term are likely to continue their requests into the third year of their stay.
However, this latest agreement, which was an option in the original deal, will raised questions on whether London Wasps see their future in High Wycombe and also whether Wanderers and the local Council can justify allowing an additional road and/or an increase in the capacity of the stadium.
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