WASPS rugby club and their history away from Coventry has been ‘celebrated’ at an official civic ceremony – despite division and widespread concerns of favouritism among Sky Blues fans.
The Lord Mayor of Coventry, councillor Tony Skipper, entertained the Wasps Rugby squad and members of the Wasps Netball team at the St Mary’s Guildhall to celebrate the rugby club’s 150th anniversary and “both sides’ impact on the city”, a press release states.
It adds: “Coun Skipper said the sporting and community life of the city had been enhanced since the rugby club moved to the Ricoh Arena late in 2014.”
While many sporting fans hold that view including some Coventry City fans, others express concerns daily on internet forums about perceived council, media and other city organisations’ favouritism of Wasps ahead of Coventry’s two biggest traditional sporting institutions – Coventry City and Coventry rugby club – both established in the city since the nineteenth century.
Many Coventry City fans believe the Coventry council deal to sell the Ricoh Arena home of the Sky Blues on a cut-price 250-year deal to then London Wasps – a deal not offered to the football club amid a legal dispute – has left the Sky Blues disadvantaged. Wasps pocket the 24/7 revenues from stadium commercial activities in a bid to plug their £35million debts.
That highly contentious deal – which has left many divided – remains subject to High Court action being taken by Coventry City Football Club’s owners Sisu.
The press release issued by Wasps’ representatives Advent Communications quotes Coun Skipper as saying: “The club added a new dimension to the city which goes way beyond rugby and netball.
“They have introduced community programmes for local young people, supported local charities, contributed to the life of the city and the region – and still found time to do very well on the field!
“Wasps Rugby continue to be highly successful and that has brought a great deal of profile to the city as well as attracting record crowds to the Ricoh Arena. Meanwhile Wasps Netball are the most successful club in the county and landed the Vitality Netball Superleague title in their first season.
“We are delighted Wasps chose to make Coventry their home. We believe we work very well together and that has meant that we have maximised the benefits of having Wasps here in Coventry.
“I wish them the best of luck for the remainder of their seasons where they still both have the chance of further success.”
Nick Eastwood, Chief Executive of Wasps Group, presented the city with a framed and signed Wasps Rugby shirt and a framed and signed Wasps Netball kit.
He said in the press release: “We had expectations when we moved to Coventry and the Ricoh Arena because we knew the potential – but all our expectations have been matched and surpassed.
“We simply could not have had a better reception on all fronts. We have had great support from the City Council and all of the other bodies here in the city, and that has helped make the move have maximum impact for the good of the club but also for Coventry and the wider region.
“When people ask us our impressions of Coventry, I say it is a real city, with real people and a real community. We are honoured to play in the city and at the Ricoh Arena and are looking forward to many years of success.”