Wasps seek to convert into Dallaglio and Co

No sooner had Lawrence Dallaglio sat down at an historic press conference than his mobile phone rang. Dallaglio cut it off as if it was an unwelcome stand-off. It was probably his coach on the line but it might have been his broker for yesterday Wasps announced their intention to become the first rugby club in Britain to "go public". They are seeking admission to the Alternative Investment Market.

"Loadsa money, loadsa players, loadsa success," as one of the club's city connections put it. Since it was announced that the game was going open last year, many clubs have formed into plcs but Wasps will be the first to sell its shares to the public as well as to members. By this means they intend to raise pounds 2.5m which will help them to redevelop their second-rate ground at Sudbury and attract new players.

Long before the game went professional, Wasps flew in the face of tradition by forming a recruitment committee: London jobs for the right boys and the odd perk, like a flat. Now they can wholeheartedly embrace such a philosophy without the need to feel embarrassed. One of the first to sign on the dotted line is Dallaglio, the Wasps captain and England flanker.

Dallaglio, who is already being marked as a future England captain, will sign a three-year contract and yesterday he was flanked by the England A half-backs Andy Gomarsall and Alex King. King has been courted by Bath and Bristol but the fact that Gomarsall is Wasps' resident scrum-half was probably the clincher. "Alex and Andy will make an ideal partnership for Wasps, if not for England," Dallaglio said. By next month they will be three of the wealthiest students in England.

Wasps' wages bill next season is estimated at pounds 1m and, initially, 10- 12 players will be on full-time contracts. "If the share issue takes off we'll move to a full-time squad immediately," Malcolm Evans, the club's treasurer said. Players will be on a retainer between pounds 20,000 and pounds 25,000 and will receive win bonuses of up to pounds 1,000 per match. They may also be offered shares. The figures were not enough to attract Olivier Roumat, the French lock. He wanted pounds 120,000 and, as Sir Patrick Lowry, the Wasps chairman, pointed out, that would have "ruined our wage structure." In addition to King, the club has also signed Glyn Llewellyn from Neath and Matthew Lewis from Bridgend.

Wasps were depleted earlier this year by Newcastle who took, among others, Rob Andrew. Sir Patrick said: "We haven't panicked. We have been anxious but now we are making a major response to the challenge with a unique solution to funding." The club has 2,100 members and hopes not only to maintain its independence but also its "social ethos". It runs eight other teams plus women's rugby.

Meanwhile, Dallaglio (who is studying urban estate management), King (economics and accountancy) and Gomarsall (marketing) turned up at the Rugby Club in London with their new agent, Peter Powell, the former Radio One disc jockey. They join a stable that includes Phillip Schofield, Phil de Glanville and Anthea Turner who happens to be Powell's wife.

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