Wasps’ demise shows why owners must cut their cloth accordingly
Wasps vowed to become Europe’s richest club when launching a radical retail bond after moving to Coventry. Just eight years later, the storied club is all but buried.
A deadly concoction of hubris and financial mismanagement has sadly flattened 156 years of history.
The club that launched true England greats Lawrence Dallaglio, Rob Andrew and Jeff Probyn may never return, and almost certainly not in the guise that led to two Heineken Cup triumphs and five Premiership titles.
Pity the supporters rendered clubless, no longer even able to wander with the nomadic but decorated men of black and gold.
Wasps were booted out of England’s entire league structure yesterday. The RFU’s patience ran out with new owners attempting to resurrect the club that went bust in October.
Wasps claim the RFU denied repeated requests for an extension, but the game’s governing body have made the only possible call. No stadium, no players, no staff and no investment.
When Wasps moved to Coventry in 2014, sceptics raised fears on the ailing outfit’s ability to generate sufficient Midlands support. How the powers that be haughtily dismissed claims of franchise rugby in all but name only.
When Wasps launched a supporter bond a year later, critics suggested the move underscored deeper funding issues. How top club figures laughed off concern as brickbats of the uninformed.
Wasps are understood to have lamented the inability to levy financial backing without the coveted P Share, the slice of central Premiership revenue traditionally split between 13 clubs.
Administrators had no choice but to sell that P Share back to Premiership Rugby to service that gargantuan debt. No amount of history generates any right to a future.
Wasps claim potential investors were spooked by a lack of clarity on promotion and relegation in future Premiership seasons, to the point of becoming “silent and fatigued”.
There will be more than fatigue among creditors who will likely never see significant recompense. Wasps branded their silence “deliberate and necessary”, but only the former rings true.
Some 11 full England internationals started Wasps’ 2007 European Cup triumph, with three more on the bench. Future talent must find a new home.
And now London Irish stand at the crossroads of takeover safety or financial failure in English rugby’s bleakest season. The reckoning is here, and it is alarmingly real.
Time for owners to cut financial cloth — and the game’s constituent bodies to complete pledged governance overhauls.