pounds 10m offer to link QPR with Wasps

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The Independent Online
Combining football and rugby clubs, much touted since rugby union went professional nine months ago, will become reality if Queen's Park Rangers and Wasps accept bids from a music magnate who intends to bring them together at Loftus Road.

Chris Wright, majority shareholder of the television and entertainment group Chrysalis, yesterday tabled an pounds 8m offer to buy the recently relegated football club from Richard Thompson. At the same time he proposed paying pounds 1.75m for a 49.9 per cent stake in Wasps, with another pounds 1m available for players' contracts.

Rangers director Alan Hedges said that Wright's was just one of three offers for the football club. One is fronted by the former Guinness chief, Ernest Saunders.

"I have been a supporter at Loftus Road for 20 years. That's why I want to get involved - because I am a fanatic," Wright said yesterday. He said that Ray Wilkins would definitely continue as manager, and would have money to buy new players.

Wright believed he had the deal "in the bag" two days ago but said that Thompson "changed the parameters - and that usually means asking for more money".

Wasps have asked for 21 days to consider Wright's offer, which is contingent on their playing first-team matches at Loftus Road and using their present facility at Sudbury near Wembley for second-team fixtures for both the football and rugby clubs, though Wright is reportedly interested in developing Sudbury if his QPR interest goes unrequited.

Wright's plan received the immediate endorsement of their captain, the England flanker Lawrence Dallaglio, and the Wasps players.

"The QPR link-up would undoubtedly be good for Wasps," Dallaglio said yesterday. "It would provide us with the best stadium facilities in the country and help us go into the new era of professional rugby in the right environment to produce a trophy-winning side."

He added: "The surface is like a bowling-green and would be fantastic to play on." Quite how long it would stay in such pristine condition is arguable, though, remembering the experience of Cardiff City when the Cardiff rugby league side played at Ninian Park in the early 1980s. Then, the rugby, even without union's churningly intensive scrummaging, rucking and mauling, played havoc with the turf.

That would be just one of the implications that the Football League would want to investigate. "Any member club wishing to share its ground with another sporting activity would need our permission," League spokesman Chris Hull said.

"There would be obvious concerns as to the standard of pitches for League matches if another sport were to be staged on the same ground."

There are also potential problems with the pitch size. On the few occasions rugby has used football facilities - for instance, when the North played New Zealand at Anfield in 1993 - the pitch has had to be shortened in order to accommodate even a truncated in-goal area.

"These proposals not only offer both clubs financial security but also the chance to establish London's premier sporting venue at Loftus Road," Wright said. "We would ensure that Wasps and QPR retain their individual identities but are able to benefit from the huge marketing and commercial opportunities that the joint organisation would provide."

Wigan link, page 27