Rugby Union: Wray pledges his loyalty to Saracens

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NIGEL WRAY last night reassured his first love, Saracens, that he would remain faithful to them. His promise came after the millionaire owner of the north London club severed all ties with Nottingham Forest, the club resting at the bottom of football's Premiership.

Wray, who has donated a reported pounds 8m to the Saracens cause in just over three years, stepped down as chairman of Forest's plc board yesterday and said: "Saracens is my first love. Rugby union is a game I played for 30 years. I remain absolutely committed to Saracens and I will see the job through.

"Regarding Forest, I was a member of a consortium and invested in a good football club. I am an entrepreneurial investor who likes to be involved in running things. I have holdings in an awful lot of companies, but I am not a passive investor. Soon after the start of the football season I began to believe that the football club needs to be run by people from the local community. I am not a Midlander, I am a north Londoner."

In fact Wray lives less than five miles from Saracens' headquarters in Southgate and played the bulk of his rugby with Old Millhillians. He took over at Saracens in 1995, in the first season of professional rugby, when he made an initial investment of pounds 2m and underwrote a further pounds 500,000 share issue.

Since then he has had to put his hand in his pocket on a number of other occasions as he pursued his dream which he claimed was: "to play a European Cup semi-final against one of the top French clubs in a big stadium."

The club has certainly shifted nearer that goal. Under Wray's eye the club has moved twice, first along the road to Enfield Football Club and then to Watford, where they have been attracting five-figure crowds to the 20,000-capacity Vicarage Road stadium.

However, Wray maintained: "Although I probably own 80 to 85 per cent of Saracens I generally avoid the word 'ownership'. The club belongs to the members and supporters. We have come a long way, but the job is only half done an we must not stand still."

Wray, whose place on the Forest board is to be taken by the Nottingham businessman Eric Barnes, insisted his departure had nothing to with their dreadful season. "I did not cut my ties with Forest because they have had an unsuccessful season. I had been in talks with Eric Barnes for the last six months."