New Wasps chief executive Andy Scott says the reborn club still need to attract investment if they are to play and have any chance of competing in next season’s Championship.
Scott refused to confirm reports that Wasps are to leave Coventry, their home for the past eight years.
They have been strongly linked with a new groundshare at National League football side Solihull Moors.
But Scott told BBC CWR: “Who knows how we’ll be in two or even three years?”
It has been widely reported that they already have Rugby Football Union approval to move up the road nearer Birmingham to Solihull on a one-year deal for next season – but Scott admits that they have not yet finalised any agreement and he remains cagey about confirming Damson Park as the chosen destination.
Damson Park has been home not only to Solihull Moors and Birmingham City Ladies for the past decade – although Blues Women now play the majority of their home games at St Andrew’s – Blues Under-21s men’s team play some of their games there, as well as at Nuneaton.
“There have been a lot of places suggested,” he said. “We have a long-term plan with a long-term partner in mind. We’re working on the final terms and anything said now would be premature. But I’d say we should be able to say within weeks.
“With the timeframe we’ve got, we needed somewhere that would meet the Championship minimum operating standards, and that’s what we’ve looked for. That’s what we’ve identified. But I can’t say whether or not it would meet Premiership operating standards.”
What investment levels can the new Wasps attract?
After the previous club’s collapse, with debts of £95m, all Wasps’ long-term plans under a new consortium – headed by main benefactor Christopher Holland and approved by the RFU – depend on levels of investment.
“We’re still in talks with a number of institutional investors, which are long and understandably complex,” he said. “They didn’t want to commit until we had a licence to play from the RFU.
“We now have that clarity but there’s still a bit of uncertainty as to what the agreement is going to be after the end of the 2023-24 season, in terms of structure and promotion and relegation.
“We have a number of scenarios. Plan A is investors coming in and being able to pay a fully professional squad, although to nothing like the levels as before.
“Plan B is if they don’t, we have to cut our cloth and move to a semi-professional or even amateur model.”
But, whatever sort of funding they can attract, they will have to put a team together on a greatly reduced budget. And Scott warns that going straight back up to the Premiership – in time for the potential English rugby union rebrand in 2024 – will be a big ask.
“We’re confident that we can enter the 2023 season with a competitive playing squad,” he said. “But Ealing and Jersey are very strong squads – and it would be somewhat arrogant to think we could be challenging for immediate promotion after building a squad from nothing.
“If we are, then that would be phenomenal. But we have to be realistic. Just to be able to compete in the Championship is our primary focus.
“And we’ve still got a number of conditions that we have to fulfil under the RFU licence. Repaying the creditors and getting a squad together.
“We have no employees at the moment – no coaching staff, no playing staff, no support staff. They all have to be recruited.
“There’s no grace or favour from the RFU. We’re having to stand on our own two feet on this one without own resources – and that’s how it should be. Significantly, we have not brought our own P share [entitling shareholders to a percentage of the central income of the league and voting rights] down with us.”
‘It’s a chance for us to build new rivalries’
Scott is aware that re-establishing their place in a community that failed to make them the well supported club they hoped to be will not be easy, or that popular – especially for such a nomadic club that started life in West London at Sudbury, and shared with QPR and Wycombe Wanderers before pitching up at Coventry in 2014.
But Scott insists that they can all live happily alongside each other and sees this as a hard reset to re-establish Wasps in the Midlands and draw a line under the past.
Although moving further away from Coventry Rugby, a move to Solihull would bring them to that other former giant of English club rugby prior to professionalism, Moseley – or Birmingham Moseley as they are now known – and residing in a 5,000-seater stadium just a few miles away at Billesley Common and playing in National League One, English rugby’s third tier.
“There are a huge number of clubs in the Midlands and Coventry, competing for fans,” said Scott.
“A lot of Wasps fans are also Coventry fans. A lot of Coventry fans are Wasps fans. I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. They’re just fans of rugby.
“It’s a chance for us to build new rivalries.”
He also did not refute the notion of even one day returning to the CBS Arena, the ground they bought in December 2014, with the help of a loan from Coventry City Council.
“Who’s to say we’re not?” he said. “And I’m not saying we are. We’ve not concluded our conversations and we’ve not signed a contract yet.
“We’ve all seen just how much, and how quickly, things can change in the world of rugby, so never say never.
“We couldn’t let Wasps go to the wall if there was any chance that we could save it but we’re not there yet. And without Chris Holland putting his own money in and waiving his right as a rugby creditor, we wouldn’t be here at all.
“But we still have a huge amount of work ahead.”
New Wasps chief executive Andy Scott was talking to BBC CWR’s Mikey Burrows.