|WASPS EXTEND DEAL
(orginally published Thursday 12th May 2005 - revised 13th May 2005)
As expected London Wasps have confirmed their extended ground tenancy agreement at Wycombe. In a joint statement at 10am on Thursday 12th May Wanderers Chairman Ivor Beeks commented, "We are delighted to have reached agreement with Wasps. The supporters of Wasps I am sure will be extremely pleased to know Premiership Rugby will be played here next season." The details of the length of the deal were not clear in the initial press release but the understanding from the original news item on the Wanderers official website is that deal is for a one year period where the relevant parties will have to work together to address capacity issues at Adams Park. The Wycombe Chairman added "Both Boards of Directors will now need to work together to expand the agreement and work with the local authority to provide the detail that we, and the RFU require. This agreement makes good use of the stadium on non-football days and underpins the Boards' of Directors hopes to pursue their vision of making the stadium an excellent sporting venue."
According to available Premiership Rugby Limited requirements, London Wasps will need a minimum capacity stadium of 12,000 for the start of the 2007/8 season and a minimum seating capacity of just under 5,000. Adams Park currently has a capacity limit of 10,000 set by a planning stipulation attached the extension of the 'away end' in 2001. The current physical capacity of the ground is marginally over 11,000 but is restricted by limiting capacity to the terrace and the standing enclosure in front of the old main stand. Wasps have also talked of capacities over and above the 12,000 notional figure and even employed consultants to search for possible new ground locations. Wasps Chief Executive David Davies, who rated the chances of return to Loftus Road as 50/50 less than a month previous, now sees the future of the rugby club as a partner with Wycombe Wanderers. He commented in the statement, "Our long term aim is to form a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with Wycombe Wanderers Football Club, Wycombe Council and the local community to establish [Adams Park] as a vibrant centre for business and sport."
Davies had also been quoted in the Bucks Free Press the previous Friday as saying "The capacity needs to be 12,000 within the next two years and 15,000 by the next five years. We're reasonably sure that the council is onside but there's a planning process we've got to go through." In addition to the planning process, there is also the question of funding for such ambition schemes as ground capacity increase and improved access. London Wasps are currently rely on substantial financial backing from Chairman Chris Wright but Davies has hinted that funding may be achieved from alternative sources, adding "What we want is a stadium where we can work with supporters on something like a debenture scheme." Chris Wright, who is still a major shareholder at QPR, added in the official statement "I'm delighted that we can now confirm Wycombe as our playing venue for next season and, with the proviso of securing planning consent within an agreed time frame, our plans to make [Adams Park] our permanent home very soon."
Chairboys on the Net reported earlier this week that the deal was understood to be a two year deal with a view to an extended lease of around 20 years should the capacity issues be resolved in the interim period. We can now confirm that the deal is indeed for two years but with a get out clause for Wasps after 12 months if there is a firm no from the local council on their planning requirements. The financial benefit to Wanderers for this initial two year period will be in line with the current deal and there will be an incremental increase in rent over any longer term lease signed. No equity in the ground will be signed over to Wasps but there may be costs to Wycombe should they use any capacity over 11,000.
In a further statement, David Davies also confirmed that London Wasps' links with QPR had now been succesfully severed, commenting "This agreement brings to a close a number of outstanding issues between London Wasps and the Board of QPR, whom we would like to thank for all their assistance in this matter." The former Chief Executive of QPR continued "Wasps recognise the long lasting contribution that QPR made to the success of this club in agreeing to our use of Loftus Road." Davies will now be heavily involved in obtaining planning consent for what is understood to be a stand of similar size to the Woodlands Stand, adding "This marks the beginning of an extensive programme of development and there is a lot of hard work to be done to ensure that our long term vision for Wasps rugby in Wycombe becomes a reality."
Wanderers Managing Director Steve Hayes said "We believe this is a perfect partnership which guarantees excellent football and rugby in a very vibrant community. It also offers some very exciting business opportunities for both Wycombe and Wasps." Wanderers Deputy Chairman Brian Kane also commented to the Bucks Free Press on Friday 13th May, "It's great for the town, great for the Football Club and great for Wasps, who are already beginning to see Wycombe as their home." Kane, who is expected to take over from current Chairman Ivor Beeks, added "I am hoping that we are at the start of something that will last for generations" He confirmed that no equity in the ground would be sold to the rugby club, adding "We are not giving up the birthright of Wycombe Wanderers. It's a lease deal, there's no liquidation of our assets."
Meanwhile, Steve Hayes concluded by affirming his push to drive the Wanderers towards far greater financial stability, adding "The Club's ambition is to be debt free in six years and to win promotion next season and everything we are doing is working towards this."
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