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An open letter to Steve Hayes

An open letter to Steve Hayes

In a recent Bucks Free Press article, Wycombe Wanderers owner Steve Hayes dismissed the fears of fans worried about the implications of moving to a new community stadium, calling them "The noisy few as opposed to the majority." (Click here to read the full article).

This was despite over 50% voting NO in a poll of supporters carried out in March 2010, which asked the question: "Are you in favour of moving from Adams Park to a new shared community stadium with the Wasps in Booker?" (Click here to read the relevant article).

Alternative Wycombe website SMBU have now written an open letter to Steve Hayes which they have kindly given us permission to reproduce here.

We will be only too happy to publish any reply received from Mr Hayes.

Steve Hayes is undeterred by the noisy few who are opposed to the new community stadium. We would like to invite him to put his case forward for why any Wycombe fans should be 'backing Booker` in this open letter.

Dear Steve,

I have been reading the Bucks Free Press`s coverage of the proposed new community stadium with a great deal of interest. I think it`s about as close as we`ll get to any independent reporting on the matter. I have also read through the 'Financial Issues Scoping Paper` produced for Wycombe District Council and I can now appreciate the reasons behind London Wasps needing a new stadium as well as the fact that the town could benefit from better sports and leisure facilities. It has also become clear that the proposed site will be good for job creation in the area as well offering financial rewards for the council and local hotel and property developers.

So far so good, but what I cannot figure out is why Wycombe Wanderers need a new ground or why it makes any financial or economic sense to sell-up and move the club away from the stadium they currently own.

Little has been shown in the BFP or the consultation document to explain this but you have at least stated on numerous occasions that the current setup at Adams Park is one of the main factors in holding the club back in terms of off-field revenue. On the face of it this would seem like a fairly reasonable point and many supporters might agree. Yet you, Ivor Beeks, Alan Parry and the array of Chief Execs and Financial Directors who have passed through the club in recent years have continually failed to provide any clarification whatsoever about how this will work or how it will make any financial sense. There are no numbers, no projections, no supporting evidence in favour of the football club, nothing.

Wanderers currently own Adams Park and receive rent and income from Wasps, conferencing and other non-match day revenues. The consultation paper does go someway to explain that the 'Hotel Operator` at the new stadium would build and run the new off-field facilities but it doesn`t look like it will be either the council or the clubs. That means it is difficult to see how any of these new revenue streams would find their way back into the football club, let alone at rates above and beyond what the club currently receive. The outcome of this deal will see Wanderers paying rent to the new 'Stadium Company` and facing the loss of rent they receive today, as well as having to deal with a reduction in non-match day revenues with no home of their own to use as collateral anymore.

With your London Wasps hat on you will of course find yourself in a much better position than you face today. With an increase in match day revenues, a share of the non-match day income and no longer having to pay rent to Wanderers it`s not hard to see why you are keen on the deal from their perspective, especially with the bigger crowds they attract and the opportunities for European opposition.

The other justification that you have often put forward is that supporters are being deterred from travelling to Adams Park due to its poor location and access. I have no doubt this is an issue for a number of supporters but the problem for me is that again you have failed to put forward any form of evidence, reasoning or market research to suggest that a new location with new car parks and slip roads will suddenly encourage enough new or lapsed fans out of the woodwork to make the whole business model sustainable. Since 1990 the highest average gate for a single season at Adams Park has been 6,621 back in 2002, the year after the club`s famous FA Cup exploits. Even if you counted every single person who has ever held a season ticket at Adams Park and hoped they all miraculously returned it still wouldn`t get near the numbers you need.

But let`s suppose for a minute that an extra two or three thousand supporters or even a wildly optimistic five thousand more started turning up and smashed all the attendance records, it still isn`t a good enough reason to move to a new 17-20,000 capacity stadium and only half fill it. It is a business model based on hope and anecdotal evidence about Reading FC and a dream that if you build it they will come. I have dreamt myself of seeing Adams Park regularly packed out but quite where you think a significant amount of people in South Bucks will actually appear from remains a mystery.

It is therefore very easy to draw the conclusion that the new stadium is great for London Wasps and a fantastic proposition for hotel and property development but NOT in the best interests of Wycombe Wanderers. Put simply, there is no compelling case for Wycombe Wanderers in the deal.

Beyond all of this is the underlying fact that in the short while you have been running the club you have so far been unwilling or unable to at least try and run the club within its means, so it would seem extremely naive to start putting any faith in your plans now. If you could however put some facts forward on why a new stadium is in the best financial and economic interests of Wycombe Wanderers, I and thousands more would love to hear them.

Yours sincerely,

The noisy few -

The original article is here

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Thursday September 30 2010
Time: 8:14PM

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