ENGLAND and Wasps legend Lawrence Dallaglio insists the club’s controversial move to the Midlands has already improved results and put them in contention to end a seven-year trophy drought.
Wasps remain in the hunt to earn their first play-off spot since the 2007-08 season – a campaign which saw the club crowned Premiership champions – and lie sixth in the table, only three points adrift of fourth-placed Leicester.
The progression has followed major off-field changes, including December’s transition from Adams Park tenants to owners of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, which has set Wasps on course to soar to the summit of world rugby’s rich list.
Such status is a far cry from their flirtation with bankruptcy in 2012, and the club’s former skipper Dallaglio believes the move north has fast-tracked the club’s revival.
“The direction of travel off the field has been a real turnaround and on the field it’s had a real knock-on effect on the team’s performance,” Dallaglio told City A.M.
“It was a very ground-breaking thing, not only to move Wasps but to move them halfway through the season. A few eyebrows were raised but not now everyone understands the financial model.
“It has given Wasps an incredible foothold in the game and taken them from having a profit and loss account and balance sheet somewhere near the bottom of English rugby to the very top of European rugby. It has been a masterstroke.
“It allows Wasps to move forward in a much more secure financial footing and to be competitive on the field. Off the field everyone has done their job, now it’s up to the players to deliver on it.
“The halcyon days of winning trophies every year are much more difficult to repeat because the competition across the board is significant, but there is no doubt that Wasps have the ability to challenge. The top four this season would be enormous progress.”
The club’s financial renaissance continued this week with the launch of a retail bond to raise £25m to £35m, while a new naming rights deal for the stadium could boost the coffers further this summer.
Flanker James Haskell was installed as Wasps captain at the start of a season which has witnessed unprecedented change, although the 30-year-old has never required convincing of the merit of relocating.
“It has definitely been justified. Anytime something like change happens, human nature tends to be scared and there were disgruntled people,” Haskell told City A.M. yesterday on a team visit to the Square Mile’s Paternoster Square.
“There was also the lunatic minority that came out of the woodwork but I think they would complain about anything for the sake of complaining. We were resolute in knowing it was the best thing. It is a huge change, unrecognisable really, from going from absolute battle stations to having an exciting future with a good business model.”