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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Former QPR Chairman Chris Wright on The Future of his WASPS

European champions fear for their future
Last updated at 12:31pm on 22nd May 2007


Wasps chairman Chris Wright today warned that Europe’s rugby champions will not be able to build on their Heineken Cup success without significant investment or a bigger stadium.

According to Wright, his club need to make significant strides towards matching the facilities that underpin Leicester and French giants Toulouse if they are to take advantage of Sunday’s 25-9 victory over the Tigers.

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Tastes good: Lawrence Dallaglio savours Wasps' Heineken Cup win but says the club must improve their Adams Park facilities

Wasps at present share Adams Park with Wycombe Wanderers and are examining ways of increasing the capacity of 10,000.

A new stadium is the obvious answer but that would involve a huge amount of capital investment, let alone finding a suitable site.

London Irish, who share the Madejski Stadium with Reading, are also looking into the feasibility of building their own stadium.

Under existing Guinness Premiership rules, however, any club building a new home have to allow for a capacity of at least 12,000.

Wasps attracted 91,061 fans during this season’s Premiership campaign compared to Leicester’s 196,194 and captain Lawrence Dallaglio stressed the need for an increased capacity.

“We need to go away and address the issues off the field and make sure we don’t fail because of our lack of ability to compete at that level,” he said.

“We haven’t got the buying power or strength in depth Leicester have. We don’t own a stadium or have 17,000 people coming to watch us each game. But what we do have in our team is soul.”

Wasps will receive £375,000 for taking part in the Heineken Cup, with the 11 other Premiership clubs getting exactly the same income as they have agreed to pool all monies from this competition.

The champions have picked up £37,000 as a bonus for lifting the trophy. Wright, chairman of Chrysalis, brought in businessman John O’Connell as vice-chairman, who is a significant shareholder in Wasps, and together they have been examining ways of increasing the club’s financial power.

“At the end of the day, the buck stops with me as chairman and I am open to suggestions about how we can best move forward,” Wright said.

“I believe our achievements in the 10 years of my involvement have been fantastic and I am not planning to stand down. If I ever did, I would think that I had done a pretty decent job.

“We have created a fantastic foundation here at Wasps and we are a brand that is known around the rugby world. I would love to see us playing at the kind of stadium that would match our achievements and our ambition but our biggest problem with Adams Park is gaining planning consent for increasing the capacity.

“It’s a fact of life that we cannot generate the same kind of income as other teams and that makes our achievements even greater. We have got a lot of things right and have put in place as much as we can.”

Wright admitted the only way forward might now be outside investment in the club and is more interested in someone coming in with fresh ideas.

He said: “We are always open to offers of help and if individuals felt they wanted to be involved and could play a part in developing the club then we would be willing to talk to them.

“We have spoken to a variety of people and it’s an ongoing process. If somebody coming on board wanted to take a major role then I would do whatever is right for the club.

“We are not talking about financial clout because Wasps are right up to the limit on the agreed salary cap for our squad. It’s not a question of money.

"We are talking about ideas and what someone could offer Wasps in terms of helping keep this club at the top of the game in Europe. Our aim is to build a new era of excellence and to ensure Wasps are at the forefront.”

It is a decade since Wright was asked to consider getting involved with the fledgling professional rugby game in England and agreed to form Loftus Road Plc with Wasps and Queens Park Rangers operating under the same umbrella.

He eventually opted to break up the partnership, throwing his financial weight behind the rugby section and has been rewarded with 10 trophies in as many years.

He added: “I remember going to their home ground at Sudbury and thinking, ‘My God, they can’t run a professional team from these facilities.’

“Now we have joined Leicester and Toulouse as the only teams to have won two Heineken Cups. That is amazing and there is no doubting we have been over performing compared to Leicester, who started professional rugby with 12,500 season-ticket holders.” Mail

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