As we approach the end of 2021, I would like to say a sincere thank you for the support you’ve given us in what has been another hugely challenging year. I’m so glad we were able to sign off in style with a much-needed win on Boxing Day. Your backing on the day was crucial and the atmosphere was certainly noticed by the team.

Unfortunately, we have yet again seen significant Covid-19 disruptions impact our Club and the wider community.

The pandemic has tested us in ways we never thought possible and, although we aren’t currently facing the same restrictions as this time last year, there is still uncertainty about what to expect in the coming months. However, we are hopeful and confident that 2022 will be a far brighter year for all of us.

My role as Group CEO is not only to oversee the day-to-day operations of all our businesses, but also to ensure the Club continues to engage with our fans.

It is clear from correspondence we’ve received and some of the views shared on social media in recent months that we have not been doing a good enough job of keeping you informed about some of the changes we’ve made. I know that updating supporters, especially in uncertain times, is paramount and will ensure that communication is at the forefront of what we do moving forwards.

Our fans are the heartbeat of this great Club and open and honest dialogue is imperative if we are to maintain relationships and build trust.

In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the concerns that have been raised and provide context as to why certain decisions have been taken.

There has been a lot of focus in recent months on our attendances. Actual ticket sales this season, although impacted by coronavirus, have been robust and in line with our forecasts. However, there are several other reasons why crowds appear down on previous seasons.

First and foremost, we have taken the decision to restrict the use of free tickets. This practice has had limited success in attracting new fans over the years, has alienated loyal supporters and devalued our product. I simply do not believe it is right for Season Members to invest their hard-earned money into this Club and then, on any given matchday, find themselves surrounded by thousands of people who are attending for nothing.

Even though complimentary tickets will still be available, they will be used strategically to engage with grassroots clubs, community groups, businesses, and charities. Growing our fanbase will take time and there are no quick fixes, but we are absolutely committed to doing this in the right way.

We are also seeing far higher no-show rates than usual. This can be attributed, in part, to recent results, but there can be no underestimating the ongoing effect that Covid is having. It is worth noting that live sporting, music and cultural events are seeing up to 40% of ticket purchasers not turn up despite having paid for tickets.

For example, 30% of people that had purchased tickets for the recent game against London Irish did not attend. This is commonplace across the Gallagher Premiership at the moment, although we know this will improve as confidence returns.

Creating a long-term, sustainable future has to be at the heart of everything we do. The impact of the pandemic has only served to highlight the fact we can’t continue in the way we had been if we are to achieve that goal.

As you will have noticed, there have been changes to the matchday experience you may have become accustomed to, particularly when compared to the early years following our move to Coventry.

It is an unavoidable truth that the Club had been spending significant amounts of money on matchdays. Although this was part of the initial plan to try and attract a new audience when Wasps moved to the area, we cannot incur the same costs going forward as the return on investment isn’t there. Simply put, recent events have only heightened the need for us to explore alternative ways to operate.

Delivering the large, expensive indoor Fan Villages of previous seasons at every game is no longer viable and we have had to look at ways to repurpose certain areas of the Arena to create new revenue streams. This is why currently we have no permanent club shop, and the Clubhouse is closed.

I can assure you though, we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure our fans enjoy the best experience possible when they visit the Coventry Building Society Arena. We will begin work on a new retail store early next year to complement our existing online shop, we already have an area in the South Stand that is being used to host a fantastic Fan Zone, and completion of the South Pavilion construction project will see a return to a more normal matchday operation. The new Pavilion area and retail store, along with upgrades around the rest of the Arena, will be something we can all be proud of when completed.

The decision to not include Premiership Rugby Cup games in memberships was taken, in part, to allow us to better manage the Arena and control matchday operating costs. These fixtures have traditionally seen lower attendance from Season Members which means sections of the stadium are opened and staffed unnecessarily. Rather than charging upfront for a match that many don’t attend, Premiership Rugby Cup tickets can be purchased at a low price point giving you choice and the Club the ability to open only those stands which are needed.

It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the amazing Wasps and Coventry Building Society Arena staff who, despite continued uncertainty and unpredictability, have kept this Club operational.

At the height of the pandemic, we took the very difficult decision to make a significant number of redundancies, with many of these roles yet to be replaced. This has meant increased workloads, longer hours, a need to prioritise only essential activities and, at times, almost intolerable pressure.

My team are immensely proud to work here and fiercely determined to deliver great customer service. Many of the issues you have highlighted regarding our concourses, stewarding, communication, and response times are not because we don’t care – we have either lacked staff numbers or have new colleagues trying to learn, something which takes time.

Recruitment is ongoing, including in our Marketing and Communications team, and we are already seeing more stability in key areas of the venue. However, given the current climate, we must retain flexibility in the business to prepare for a range of scenarios as the impact of coronavirus will be felt by sport for years to come.

I am fully aware of just how important it is for the Club to have a strong relationship with its supporters. As soon as we are able to do so we will reintroduce regular fan forum events and will also be reaching out to Season Members to discuss the creation of an Official Supporters Group.

As we head into 2022, I firmly believe there is great cause for optimism. Given what we have achieved during an immensely difficult period, there are many reasons to be excited for the future.

The Arena is being renovated in advance of our busiest scheduled year of music and events, and we have both the Commonwealth Games and Rugby League World Cup to look forward to. Coventry Building Society have come on board as our new long-term naming rights partner, Coventry City Football Club are back playing in the City and a fantastic new Sports Bar, ‘The Anecdote’, is performing well, with excellent supporter feedback.

We have built, what I believe to be, the best Elite Performance and Innovation Centre in English Rugby and are working harder than ever to integrate the Women’s Rugby and Netball teams into the family.

Plans are also nearly complete to reshape and relaunch our Foundation which will allow our Community team to provide even more support to those people who need us most.

On the field our injury problems are starting to ease and off it we will continue, even when difficult, to drive Wasps forward so it is a Club you can be proud of and future generations can enjoy.

Wishing you, your family and your friends a very happy and healthy New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Vaughan

Wasps Group CEO

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