Yorkshire Carnegie winger David Doherty has expressed his concern for the supporters of Wasps following the club’s controversial move to Coventry.
Wasps, one of the most successful clubs in English rugby union history, have acquired a 50 per cent interest in the Ricoh Arena after Coventry City Council voted in favour of selling their controlling interest in Arena Coventry Limited (ACL).
They will begin life in the Midlands before Christmas – either against Castres in the European Cup on December 13, or against London Irish in the Premiership eight days later. Until then they will continue playing at Adams Park in Buckinghamshire, the home of Wycombe Wanderers Football Club.
The decision to move the club to Coventry has angered supporters, who are now faced with a 166-mile round-trip to continue supporting their team.
And their frustrations have been greeted with empathy by Carnegie winger Doherty, who played for the English giants in 2006-07 when they won the Premiership and Heineken Cup double.
“It’s a good opportunity for them financially, I just hope they can keep that loyal support,” said Doherty.
“It’s a London club to me and it was even stranger when we had to move up to Wycombe.
“We still trained in Acton and I even lived in Acton, so it was a big move just to get up to Wycombe.
“We used to have sell-out crowds at Wycombe almost every week, you’re talking 12,000 people every home game.
“I also remember when we played Northampton in a one-off Heineken Cup tie at the Ricoh Arena.
“That was a near sell-out, something like 16,000 fans. But it was just a one-off.
“I don’t know how often they’re going to be able to repeat that and I’m a bit worried about the support.
“It’s a long way to go for fans week in, week out.”
Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood insists the decision was taken in the best interests of the club.
“It will help us realise our ambition to re-establish ourselves as one of the best teams in Europe and will guarantee the long-term success of the club,” he said.
“We fully appreciate this move will unsettle many of our supporters and I would like to stress that this decision has not been taken lightly.”