|IT'S UP TO WASPS
(Friday 9th January 2004)
As the deadline approaches for a decision to made on the future of London Wasps' tenancy at Adams Park, it appears that the ball remains very much in the court of the Rugby Union Club. Wasps are keen to take advantage of the boom in rugby attendances and want issues relating to ground access and capacity resolved. Wanderers case is not helped but the news that Fulham are returning to Craven Cottage next season, leaving QPR as the sole users of Loftus Road. Reports have indicated that Wasps must confirm to Wycombe by the end of February if they are to invoke their option to stay for the 2004/5 season, although this deadline is likely to be extended to the end of March as protracted negotiations between the relevant parties continue.
Wasps Chief Executive Alistair McLean commented via his matchday programme notes versus Sale on Sunday 4th January, "There is no doubt that our move to High Wycombe has been a success, but perhaps more a qualified success. Season tickets holder numbers are up 68% over the two-year period at Wycombe, and attendances are projected to be be up over 32% over the same period. Corporate sponsorship, corporate box sales, carvery and matchday hospitality are all well ahead of plan. However, there remain real issues over a long-term commitment due to problems regarding access and egress to the ground, car parking facilities, and, in due course, ground capacity. Initial meetings with Wycombe Wanderers have been very positive, but there is no doubt that failure to resolve these issues will jeopardise a long-term agreement."
The key term here is 'long-term agreement'. Wasps option to extend the current deal by one year has been written into their agreement at Adams Park since day one but the recent rise in rugby attendances has given Wasps further ambitions. McLean adding, "The game of rugby is in a growth phase and we must take full advantage of this. The bottlenecks around our ground sharing must and will be resolved to help drive the club towards break-even and profitability." Since England's Rugby World Cup victory in November 2003, attendances have predictably increased but Wasps games at Adams Park have been marred by traffic chaos whenever crowds approach the 10,000 capacity of the stadium.
Talks have already taken place on the possibilty of edging up the allowed capacity of the ground, while the rumoured possibility of fast tracking an additional access road through the Dashwood Estate, has also been confirmed by the local press. In addition to press reports, Chairboys on the Net understands that the proposed road would only be used on matchdays. A private gated road would not involve the same costs and regulations as a public road but any such development through an 'area of outstanding natural beauty' is sure to be met with opposition.
Meanwhile, QPR chiefs have been closely monitoring the situation. Wasps are contracted to return to Loftus Road when their current deal at Wycombe expires and Rangers will lose out to the tune of £300,000 if they take up the one year option following Fulham's return to Craven Cottage. Rangers' Chief Executive David Davies believes there is a little point in Wasps staying in High Wycombe, commenting to the Evening Standard "Wasps have to come back eventually unless they negotiate their way out of the contract and there's no advantage in staying for another season. They're close to selling out in Wycombe as a result of the feelgood factor surrounding English rugby but there's no room for expansion. It's up to them but they need to look at the bigger picture."
The power struggle and war of words is likely to continue too. London Wasps owner Chris Wright said "We don't want to give up what we have developed at Wycombe but is a capacity of 9,500 going to be big enough for Wasps?" Wright is also a major share holder in QPR and the company that owns Loftus Road and he added "It could be possible that we play - with agreement - the odd game at Loftus Road where the capacity is much greater. Increasing capacity by 2-3,000 at Wycombe is dependent on improving access to the stadium to the satisfaction of the police and that may be something we could look into."
What seems increasingly likely is that Wasps will agree a further one year deal at Wycombe while talks continue on the capacity and access/egress issues at Adams Park. However, under the terms of the original contract the third year must at least be at the same rate as the estimated £300,000 rent for 2003/4.
In the longer term, the possibilty of joint ground venture cannot have escaped discussions between Wanderers and Wasps. However, what will be of interest to Wanderers followers will be how such perceived improvements to access plus an increased ground capacity could be funded at a time when resources appear to be prioritised towards playing matters.
Click here to read all the latest Wycombe news
|© Chairboys on the Net 2004 - www.chairboys.co.uk - all rights reserved.|
All there is to say and know about Wycombe Wanderers on the Internet