Melville urges fans to back Wasps move

Date published: October 15 2014

Former Wasps player and coach Nigel Melville has urged fans to back the club’s controversial decision to relocate to Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

Former Wasps player and coach Nigel Melville has urged fans to back the club’s controversial decision to relocate to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The Premiership side announced their headline-grabbing switch last week, insisting it was the only way to secure the long-term future of the cash-strapped club – but as a result fans will have to travel to a stadium that is 82 miles north of their current Adams Park home in Wycombe.

Melville, who steered Wasps to the league title of the professional era back in 1996-97, admitted he was at first stunned by the news but can understand the reasoning behind the move.

“I think the initial reaction from everybody was one of shock. Although there had bee a lot of talk about it no one really thought it would happen,” said Melville.

“But I think you have to look at sport as a business now. If everyone wants to get paid, if everyone wants to be professional, then you have got to accept that to survive and be competitive you have got to make some tough decisions.

“They have made a decision which in many ways is a no-brainer because you have got to have your own stadium. You’ve got to be able to commercialise the sport and if you can’t do that in London then you need to find somewhere else you can.

“If you look at the major teams in the Premiership, the top teams, Harlequins, Northampton, Leicester, Gloucester, Saracens they all own their own stadiums. They have more often than not been very strong and that is largely because they have more revenue opportunities than those renting stadia.”

Melville is currently the chief executive of USA Rugby and highlighted the fact that sports teams relocating for business reasons is quite common place in the United States.

“If there isn’t an option in or around London then as a club you have got to make that move. It might be a relatively rare thing in the UK but it happens all the time in the States,” he added.

“Just the other night I was watching the Indianapolis Colts – who used to be the Baltimore Colts – playing the Houston Texans – who emerged after the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans.

“I could probably name about 15 franchises that have moved cities and in the main for good reasons – and most have been successful.

“You have to sympathise with the fans and you understand their feelings, I really do, but if Wasps are going to be strong going forward, competitive and financially sound then a tough decision had to be made and it looks like it was. The fans have now got to get behind them and make it work.”

By Graham Jenkins