WASPS are to relocate to the Midlands after Coventry councillors yesterday formally approved the Premiership rugby club’s offer to take over the running of the city’s Ricoh Arena.
The two-time Heineken Cup winners are believed to have purchased 100 per cent of the stadium’s operating company ACL for around £20m, securing them a 250-year lease on the ground.
Wasps last night refused to confirm whether they would look to move next season or during the current campaign, but are set to reveal full details of the switch at a press conference this morning.
The nomadic club, whose 19th century origins lie in north London, have played at Adams Park in High Wycombe since 2002, though their latest move promises to stretch fan loyalty even further.
An online petition among Wasps supporters against the move has gathered 1,700 signatures, while fans of Coventry’s indigenous football and rugby clubs have also expressed concerns about its impact.
Wasps, who are also thought to be taking on £14.4m debt owed to the council, insist they are happy to share the 32,500-capacity Ricoh Arena with Coventry City Football Club, who have agreement to use it until the end of next season.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, it has been a very thorough and detailed process and we truly believe this is the best option to secure a successful long-term future for the club,” Wasps said.
“It’s important to us to make clear that we see the Ricoh as the home of Coventry City Football Club and are committed to it staying that way, and that we are already working with Coventry Rugby Club to ensure both clubs thrive and grow.”
Council leader Ann Lucas said: “We have been working with Wasps to make sure their aspirations for the club, the community and the Ricoh are right for Coventry.”