WASPS chiefs insist their controversial move to Coventry will make them the richest club in English rugby and help them realise their dream of returning to the pinnacle of the European game.
The Premiership side plan to relocate in December after Coventry councillors this week approved their bid to take over the running of the city’s 32,500-seater Ricoh Arena.
That revenue boost is to be supplemented by new sponsorship deals with car manufacturer Land Rover, which is based in Coventry, and cloud computing company EMC, a former partner of the club.
Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood believes the major developments will transform the fortunes of an outfit that has been running at a loss and almost went bust last year.
“Today’s announcement is a watershed moment in the history of Wasps and the professional game,” he said. “It will help us realise our ambition to re-establish ourselves as one of the best teams in Europe and will guarantee the long term success of the club.”
The two-time Heineken Cup winners will play their first match at their new home – to be shared with Coventry City FC, until 2016 at least – against Castres on 13 December or London Irish eight days later.
More than 1,7000 Wasps fans signed a petition opposing the move from High Wycombe, their home of 12 years, and while captain James Haskell called it “sad” he insists the club had “no choice”.
“A lot of the fans have been shielded from the true reality – that we were an hour away from going bankrupt; that for every pound spent at Adams Park, we get 50 per cent of it,” he said. “You can’t sustain a business on gates of 5,000. You can’t lose £3m a year in any walk of life. This was about survival.”
■ Wasps have acquired 50 per cent of the company that operates the Ricoh Arena from Coventry City Council. The rest is owned by a charitable trust
■ Coventry City FC have agreement to play their home games at the Ricoh Arena until the end of next season. Wasps say they want that arrangement to continue
■ Wasps fans have criticised the move while Coventry City FC chiefs have expressed concerns about the state of the pitch if used more frequent