Wasps have announced a move to Coventry's Ricoh Arena. We asked ex-Wasps and England lock Simon Shaw for his thoughts on the decision...
“When I came back to Wasps from the World Cup (in 2011), I felt like I wasn’t at home any more. The entire coaching and playing staff had changed, but I felt like the new boy. That’s strange for a player who’s been there for 14 years, but the club had already changed. I thought, if I was going to be the new boy, I may as well do it somewhere else and have a new experience, so I left.
“I’ve only been back to Adams Park a few times since, and the soul has been lost. The boxes were half empty, and the crowd was the worst I’d seen it. That could be because the club’s been in limbo for a few years. There’s been so much uncertainty, it’s been difficult for people to be cheery.”
“I’m not saying the move to the Ricoh Arena shouldn’t happen, and I’m sure the decision was thought about long and hard, but my thoughts are with the fans completely. It’s the hard core supporters I feel most sorry for, the ones who have kept turning up whatever’s been happening behind the scenes. Whether it’s a 30-minute journey or an hour, the fact is the club has moved further away. It’s sentimental, but I can’t help feeling sad, and there are fans who have supported the club for longer than I played there who will feel the same.
“People say Manchester United supporters travel for miles to watch them play, but the fact is the team is still in Manchester. If you live in Holland and you support a team in Manchester, that’s your choice.”
“We used to sit around for hours as players and ask: ‘Why is it so difficult to find a new stadium?’ But I was just a naïve player, and we were never given the task of finding a new place. We relied on the people at the top. It’s frustrated me that some of the press have said this has been a two-year search. It hasn’t, it’s been going on forever and a day, ever since they sold our original ground, Sudbury.
“Only time will tell if the business will become a success, and if the Wasps brand lasts forever then who am I to say this is a bad move? But it changes the sport and the way clubs are perceived. It’s like the American model of franchising clubs and moving them to wherever you want.
“It will be a tough proposition to attract new supporters, too. Adams Park is often half empty, so what’s the big plan to fill a 30,000-seater stadium? The last thing you want is to play in front of a crowd of 5,000 in a ground that size.
“Saracens have moved around a fair bit, but their marketing team work incredibly hard to get those numbers. We used to chat on the back of the bus on the way to finals; we couldn’t get to grips with why 50,000 Wasps fans would turn up at Twickenham all of a sudden. Even if the move weighs up in the business sense, it won’t be a success unless they fill the stadium.”
“There’s a sense of relief for the players. They all have mortgages and problems like any other man, and knowing they’re going to get their wage paid every month is a relief.
“I’m not sure if my view is considered to be finished now, but my priority when deciding where to play was to be at a club that would help me to achieve my goals of winning England caps and trophies. The second thing I’d look at is the lifestyle, and whether I’d enjoy living there.
“Living in Coventry wouldn’t be my preference, but if guys are money driven the pound will go further there. They may want to go and watch west end shows instead!
“But as an ex-player, I don’t like to think of Wasps as a midlands club. There will be no more London derbies against Quins and Saracens, you’ll get midlands derbies against Northampton and Leicester instead. Though we’ve been led to believe it was the club’s only choice, as a guy who played there for 14 years it doesn’t please me. It’s no longer the Wasps I used to know.”
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