16.10.2014

ARE WASPS BEING SENT TO COVENTRY?

I’m what you could call a serial mover.  

Depending on what you google the average seems to be between 8-12 house moves in a lifetime.  I counted up how many times I have moved abode and, if memory serves, the total is 14 times.  13 of those being in the last 12 years. 

There are various reasons for moving home – sometimes you need more space; occasionally you can’t get along with your neighbours and every so often, you just can’t afford not to.

Last week, Wasps RFC confirmed they are moving home, because they can’t afford not to.  Reflecting the pace of the London housing market, they're not hanging about either, with the first game at their new home due against London Irish in December.  

The main talking point being that they are not just moving around the corner from their Adams Park home, or even to the other side of town. They are uprooting and starting a new life 80 miles away at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

They are not the first sporting team to make such a move and with the fragile financial nature of many clubs, I would imagine they won't be the last.  Football, and increasingly rugby, is now dictated by revenue first and foremost.  The idea of clubs being a commercial franchise is the norm in the States, with location dependant largely on financial opportunity. 

It raised the question for me: What’s in a club these days?  Traditionally of course, clubs formed geographically.  Often clubs were more about the community rather than the activity, competing across multiple sports such as rugby, football and cricket.

The history of Wasps themselves is quite colourful and, to be fair, based in staunch loyalty.  Wasps were formed by a breakaway protest group when Hampstead (Rugby) Football Club renamed themselves Harlequins RFC.  The renaming of Hampstead to Harlequins was supposedly to cater for increasing numbers of supporters and players coming from further afield than the local area. Quite a commercially orientated decision for 1870.

Sports clubs’ names themselves give some clue to the chops and changes which history brings; United often referring to a merger of clubs and Rovers and Wanderers both alluding to a club which had no home ground.

The more you delve, the murkier the waters get in terms of location being an immovable cornerstone of a club.  Arsenal is so called because it was founded by a team of munition workers from Woolwich in 1886.  Back then, it was a Kent address.  They didn’t move to Highbury in north London until 1913 after Henry Norris saved them from - you guessed it - bankruptcy.

I feel for Wasps fans. I support a football team based on where I was born and grew up (there are precious few other reasons for suffering the ordeal of being an Ipswich Town fan).  Having chosen to move away, (and subsequently another 13 times since), my support is no longer catered for by a season ticket but by news, social media and, on the odd occasion, television.

I suppose this situation will now be forced upon many Wasps fans who decide to hold their support of the club as they know it.  It remains to be seen if Wasps are sent to Coventry by their fans, for being sent to Coventry by their management.

I feel for Wasps too, as it does seem that it was a case of Coventry or bust.  Some of the most passionate fans may argue that the answer should have been bust.  In that case, perhaps we'll see the equivalent of Wimbledon AFC forming from the empty nest left behind.  And maybe, just maybe, in 20, 80 or even 250 years’ time, just as the lease expires on the Ricoh Arena, they will be the club holding the headlines.

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