COVENTRY rugby club have accused Ricoh-based Wasps of reneging on commitments to prevent fixture clashes by planning to move some Premiership matches from Sundays to Saturdays.
The city’s 141-year-old rugby club say they were informed in a phone call from Wasps last week of the intention to move some Premiership Ricoh fixtures to Saturdays – potentially clashing with Cov fixtures at the Butts Park Arena.
Coventry RFC chairman Jon Sharp told the Observer such fixture clashes could harm the club, and damage Wasps more than the city’s traditional rugby club.
He pointed to rising attendances and corporate hospitality at Butts Park Arena since the nomadic Wasps moved to the Ricoh Arena stadium it purchased last October on a massive 250-year lease from Coventry City Council.
Mr Sharp said he was “surprised” over Wasps’ plans and failure to consult – and called for a”relationship with Wasps that works both ways”.
Mr Sharp said: “I was surprised since we had been told catagorically they would be playing the remainder of this season’s and next season’s Premiership fixtures on a Sunday.”
He said that commitment was made in meetings last October with Wasps, and with senior figures at Coventry City Council – where councillors had insisted their deal to sell the taxpayer-supported Ricoh to London Wasps Holdings Limited had been strictly on the basis that it would not harm Coventry RFC or Ricoh tenants Coventry City Football Club.
Mr Sharp said: “We’re doing so strongly at the moment. Last Saturday was another record crowd.. our gates are up this year by another 25 per cent from last year.
“I can’t say the advent of Wasps in Coventry has hurt us in any way. I think them moving to Saturdays might harm us.”
He re-iterated there had been no consultation before news of the council’s deal with Wasps broke last October, when the club initially complained it had been “left it the dark” over the “fait accompli”.
After that, Mr Sharp said the club had decided there was no point being a “dog in a manger” about the Wasps move and saw that there could be mutual benefits.
He added: “We said we’d work with it. There were potential positives. There should be a relationship with Wasps that should work both ways.”
He said Cov had an excelllent working relationship with other local Coventry clubs and other Premiership clubs in the region including Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.
Mr Sharp added: “By playing on Saturdays, Waps might lose die-hard rugby support. I don’t know if they’ve thought that through. They’ve made this move for commercial reasons.”
Cov had a season-high attendance of around 2,000 on Saturday.
Wasps’ plan would see them alternating Saturdays with Coventry City FC, which has “primacy of use” of the Ricoh written into its rental agreement – a condition set down by the Football League. It gives the football club first call on use of the Ricoh.