Foreword: This page is dedicated to John Devonport a good friend of mine who's play for Wasps covered three decades. The information up to 1962 was created by Crawford Snowdon who produced it for the Quinquennial Dinner in 1962.
While students at University College Hospital, William Alford and other former scholars of Merchant Taylors School, decided to form Wasps Football Club. The year was 1866, but they held their first formal Club meeting at the Eton and Middlesex Tavern, in North London, in the autumn of 1867, and they take 1867 to be the year of Wasps foundation. James Pain, who lived to the ripe age of 95 and died in 1915, was elected President of the Club, William Alford, Honorary Secretary, and his brother, F. S. Alford, Captain.
Four years later a number of clubs then playing the game met on January 26, 1871, and founded the Rugby Football Union. Through a misunderstanding over the time and place of this meeting, Wasps Football Club was not represented. However, Wasps were in full accord with the proceeding and duly joined the Union.
RICHARD PAIN, an original member of the Club and a vice-president, died on 9th October, 1936, thus seeing the opening of the Club's seventieth season. L. C. Shrubsole, a doughty forward, who joined in 1887 and continued playing until 1913, was one of the last to discard the old fashioned high-necked thick woollen guernseys which were retained by many long after open-necked shirts came into use. The first Club jerseys had broad bands of black and yellow whilst the present style, with the embroidered yellow wasp on a black ground, dates from 1873.
The Rugger of their earliest days, as recalled by these Wasp elders, was a different game from that of today. In those days the Wasps generally played a full-back, three threequarters, two quarter-backs and nine forwards. Tight scrums were in vogue, into which one charged like an angry bull.
Without much methodical formation the pack sought either to hack the ball through the opposition or to walk over it, while the quarter-backs on either flank shouted directions. The tight serum was the battle royal of the old game, and there was little passing out from it. The maul in goal was also in vogue, when the fight to secure for the attackers a try, for the defenders a touch down, might last for a couple of minutes.
The score recorded not only goals and tries but also "posters" (the ball striking a goal post and so coming back into the field of play), touches-in goal, and touches-down, all these minor considerations having especial significance in the event of a draw. ("Points" for goals and tries were not adopted until 1889.)
In 1872 a match between Wasps and Hendon, at Hendon, resulted in a draw, described in a newspaper account of the game in Wasps records as "in favour of the Wasps." The score was "a touch-down and four rouges to a touch-down." It is clear from the context, however, that the touches down in this instance were tries: the writer refers to the kick at goal as a try.
Significance of the term "rouge," borrowed presumably from the Eton Field Game, is not evident. It occurs again in a contemporary newspaper report of a game in 1874, when Wasps defeated Ipswich at Ipswich by a goal two tries, "and several rouges" to nil. Yet according to the R.F.U. Annual in 1874-75, three touches-down or rouges equalled one try, and three tries equalled one goal.
In a game on February 17th, with Oxford University at Oxford, the score was Wasps 1 goal, 1 touch-down; Oxford 1 goal, 1 try, 3 touchdowns. Yet the result was accounted a draw because Oxford had to touch down three times and Wasps only once, Oxford apparently losing the value of the unconverted try. The Wasps try was scored by John Shearman, a quarter-back, brother of the late Mr. Justice Shearman, who also was a Wasp and played for the Club in the serum against his University in this game.
A good season for the Wasps was that of 1875-76, during the successful captaincy of B. J. Angle, of the Stock Exchange, a dashing forward, also a renowned amateur boxer and a famous boxing referee. (He was described by the periodical Figaro in a February 1878 issue as "a very `ugly customer' in a scrimmage, albeit a very presentable gentleman in a drawing-room"). Wasps played 16 games that season, won 14, drew 2. Opponents beaten included Civil Service, St. Andrew's Rovers, Harlequins, Queen's House, and Guy's Hospital; the games drawn were with Cambridge University and Richmond.
Wasps first ground was in Finchley Road. In the seventies they had a pitch at. Lillie Bridge, Brompton. Unfortunately, early minutes of Club committee meetings have been lost, and there is a gap in the record of grounds on which Wasps games were played. About 1880, and for several years after, Wasps ground was behind the Half Moon at Putney. Subsequently they hired grounds at Loughborough Park; Hyde Farm, Balham; Scrubbs Lane, Old Oak Lane, and Wood Lane, Shepherd's Bush; Horn Lane, Acton; Boston Manor; and on land alongside Sudbury Town station. Wasps present ground, purchase of which they completed in September, 1950, on repaying to the Rugby Union the last installment of a loan, dates from 1923. The ground has been purchased gradually by Wasps past and present.
Quite early in the Club's history two teams were run, and in 1887 a dozen fixtures were arranged for a third fifteen. Nearly sixty of the clubs named in the first Wasps fixture list have ceased to exist.
Here are the names of some of them:
- St. Andrew's Rovers
- Queen's House
- Clapham Rovers
- Middlesex Wanderers
- Wickham Park
St. Andrew's Rovers, it is believed, was the germ of the London Scottish.
Most distinguished among the Club's presidents was G. H. Harnett, of Kent County Union. He played his first game for Wasps in 1880: was elected President of the Club in 1891, and held the office until his death in 1930. George Harnett was one of a well-remembered trio of great sportsmen who kept the Wasps Football Club alive through two of the most difficult periods of its history. The others were J. W. Spiller and E. W. Nuttall. Largely through these three keeping in touch with members during the 1914-1918 war, Wasps Football Club was the first to re-start, with a Services side, in 1918.
The Club resolved on the outbreak of war in 1939 to keep its ground open as long as it would be permitted to retain it, to provide games for members on leave or waiting the call-up, and to entertain Services sides. It threw its membership open to all Rugby footballers and to Services players for a nominal subscription, and welcomed Dominions players. Three, sometimes four, XV's were maintained every war-time season, largely out of the temporary membership of men from London and provincial clubs which had ceased playing. The teams were based always, however, on a Wasps nucleus, however small.
In 1940, the late W. H. S. Cairns, honorary secretary since 1925, was obliged to leave London, and the Club thereby sustained a great deprivation. A. N. Davidson, his assistant was able most fortunately to carry on, and these two great servants of the Club changed places. Cairns crowned his fifty odd years of distinguished membership by being elected as President in 1948 for two years. He continued to aid committees with his ripe wisdom and valuable experience until his death in 1960. Davidson relinquished the honorary secretaryship in 1949, and J. Cooke, a brilliant stand-off half for the First XV in his playing days, took over the arduous duties.
Captain of the Club is also Captain of the First XV; the Club has been fortunate in selecting a series of players who have fulfilled both functions admirably.
Among those still serving the Club as vice-presidents in 1982 were R. M. Swyer (1926-35, President of the Club, 1955-58) and 1966-67, E. C. R. Hopkins (1935-37); N. Compton (1939-1947) President (1970-73); D. W. Malcolm (1947-48); B. P. Young (1950-51); P. W. Sykes (1951-55); J. E. Woodward (1955-56); P. G. Yarranton (1960-62); F. E. J. Hawkins (1964-66); D. W. A. Rosser (1966-68); A. C. B. Hurst (1968-69); D. Unsworth (1969-70); A. Black (1970-72 and 1975-76); W. G. Morgan (1973-75); G. Richards (1976-77) and A. A. Richards (1977-79).
The records of two of these Captains are outstanding in length of tenure of office. R. M. Swyer joined the Club in 1920. Except for two games in 1922-23 and the Easter tour of 1924 (Antwerp and Cologne), he played in every game from 1920 to 25th November, 1934, when he was crocked. He played in 301 consecutive games in England. Swyer greatly improved the standard of football, especially in the First XV. His best season was 1930-31 when the First XV were unbeaten and scored 530 points against 76.
To N. Compton, who joined the Club in 1925, fell the difficult task of leading the Club throughout the world war. A high standard of play was still expected from the First XV, despite the fact that the Club naturally lost the majority of members to the Services. From time to time they welcomed as wartime members the International players: J. R. McClure, Russell Bruce, and K. L Geddes (Scotland); Eric Grant (R. N. Z. A. F. and Scottish Services); D. J. O'Brien (Ireland); John Gwilliam; Vivian Jenkins (Wales); and J. Parsons (English Services). Of the members of the New Zealand Services, 45 joined the Club during the war, delighted to play in any side where there was a vacancy.
The assistance of such temporary members was naturally occasional, and Compton had many times to take the field with a side of uncertain attainments. The team was often made up in the eleventh hour, even at the last minute literally. Yet the first XV, playing against the strongest opposition then existing, won many more games than it lost. It beat each of the sides raised respectively by the New Zealand, Australian, and South African Services.
Compton's 21 playing years included eight as Captain; an International trial (North v. South) in 1934, in which year he played for Barbarians, the first Wasp to do so; and captaincy of a London side that played Guy's Hospital in celebration of their Centenary in 1943. Retiring in 1947 as Captain of the Club he undertook leadership of Wasps Vandals, instituted in 1948. Only once in his playing career in the First XV was Compton obliged to stand down through injury sustained on the field.
D. J. MALCOLM followed Compton in 1947-48, J. B. Bland taking over in 1948-49. His reign was comparatively short; it is a pity he came to the task so late in his distinguished playing career. His two seasons, however, were full of glory, and in 1949 he had the distinction of beating Newport at Newport, and Cardiff at Sudbury.
Wing-Commander, later Air Vice Marshall, B. P. Young, a brilliant threequarter succeeded Bland as Captain, Young was an inspiring leader, was universally popular, and was duly re-elected for the 1951-52 season. To the Club's great regret a posting to the North of England obliged him to retire.
P. W. Sykes his Vice-Captain, took over and led the First XV in 1951-55. As scrum-half for England, Sykes played against every home country, in token of which are the four International jerseys he exchanged with his respective opposite numbers and presented to the Club, plus an England jersey he did not exchange. In 1957-58 he demonstrated his strategic mastery of the game from the position in the First XV of full-back.
In Wasps ninetieth season they were fortunate in having another England International as Captain of the Club, J. E. Woodward. Like Sykes he has been a Wasp ever since he left school.
DURING the summer of 1953 the C. F. Bell stand for 800 spectators under cover-in tip-up chairs with soft seats-was completed. This was a cooperative effort by former playing members.
In the 1952-53 season two of Wasps players, P. W. Sykes and J. E. Woodward, represented England in her championship-winning year, gaining seven caps between them. P. G. Yarranton captained the R. A. F. XV, Yarranton, also an International learned his football entirely in the Club, starting in the Junior XV's.
Wasps were invited in April, 1953, to send a VII to compete in the tournament of the historic Melrose club, originators in 1883 of the seven-a-side game. Though they did not get very far in this great Border competition the great welcome they received more than made up for any disappointment.
In November of 1953 Wasps First XV were guests in Dublin of Old Belvedere, who conveyed us there and back by air, so keen were they to give us a game. they put up a very good show, though losing 5 points to 9, and it was thoroughly enjoyable game. Old Belvedere's hospitality was so magnificent that each of us felt far more important than he had any right to be. (they strove to return it on September 29th, 1957, when they won the return game at Sudbury, 11 points to 8).
The Club generally had a very good 1953-54 season, especially the Vandals who, skippered by D. W. Malcolm, won 27 of their 32 games, lost 2, and drew 3, with a total of 552 points against 147. Of 68 members who played for the Vandals during this season no fewer than 33 were called upon at some time for the First XV.
DURING the summer of 1954 the new entrance to the ground at Repton Avenue took shape, and working parties did good service on the first pitch, digging drains and levelling depressions. Their effort, but especially those of Reginald Bealing, Wasps indefatigable groundsman, had the result that for Wasps first game, on September 4th, 1954, the first pitch was a picture.
For the first time in Wasps history they met that day at Sudbury a mixed International XV, sponsored by the then President of the Rugby Football Union, Mr. W. C. Ramsay. It was a great game in which Wasps First XV scored 20 points to the 24 of the strong International side. Friends, supporters, and all Wasps, from the President downwards, paid to see this game. The "gate" was a record one.
Two historic events marked the summer of 1955-the large-scale draining of the first pitch, a major operation and a costly one; and the first Vice-Presidents' dinner. Nineteen trenches, each two feet wide by 18 inches deep, were cut diagonally across the pitch by a contractor's trenching machine. Earthenware drains, shingle and clinker replaced the clay. Meantime the pitch resembled a battlefield of the first world war. Club working parties did a tremendous job shifting the displaced clay to build raised mounds for spectators on the top side of the pitch. They had previously demolished the Vice-Presidents', originally the "Old Members" stand, which had been condemned. Bealing's work re-sowing the worn turf and persuading grass to grow, watering seven days a week from dawn to dusk in a phenomenally dry summer, was heroic.
SEVENTY-FIVE of 120 Vice presidents attended the memorable dinner at the Royal Automobile Club on June 1, 1955, despite the fact that a railway strike was on. Half a dozen or so of these former playing members had been Wasps for 50 years or more. The only guests were the Captain of the Club, J. E. Woodward, and his Vice-Captain of the First XV, R. E. Syrett the then most recently elected Vice-President was P. W. Sykes, Woodward's predecessor.
Beside him was another new Vice-President, R. V. Stirling, former England Captain who had joined the Club in 1953 and had been a great addition to Wasps playing strength that season. Normally a Wasp plays many years in the Club and renders considerable service off the field as well, to attain the honour of a vice-presidency. Stirling's election, nevertheless, was by unanimous vote.
The summer of 1956 was again one of activity at Sudbury. Working parties shifted a large mound at the far end of the second pitch, thus enabling the car park at the Repton Avenue entrance to be enlarged to take 100 cars.
Construction of a new Vice-Presidents' stand was begun, and was so far advanced as to enable five rows of tip-up chairs to be installed. Alas a tremendous gale blew down the half-built rear wall on July 28. Discussions with Town Planning and Council authorities further delayed completion of this stand.
Wasps 90th season (1956-57) was a good one for the First XV, under Woodward and Syrett, and for the Club (President R. M. Swyer) as a whole. The First XV played 37 games, won 23 scored 449 points against 272. The Club's 13 XV's played 342, won 219, scored 4,178 against 2,092.
The season opened on September 1, 1956, when thanks to the kindness of the Rugby Football Union they had the honour of playing an International XV on the famous headquarters ground at Twickenham. Mr. A. M. Rees, an Honorary Member of the Club, raised a very strong side captained by K. J. Jones, of Wales, and drawn from all four British countries and France. Woodward put Wasps players through a strenuous period of training for this game, and it was due to their real fitness and fast open play, and to their team understanding, that they were able to score 8 points and to keep the International XV's score down to 13 points.
Of the Junior Sides in Wasps 90th season it is worth recording that the B 1 XV, under R. W. G. Wynde, won 21 of 23 games played scoring 321 points against 103. In the 94th season P. S. Gerard took over the Extra A 3 XV from Wynde and won 20 of 22 games played, scoring 364 point against 85.
FIRST mention occurs in Wasps News Letter recording the 90th (1956-57) season of R. A. W. Sharp. Sharp played for Blundells in the Rosslyn Park Sevens, as did another son of a Wasp, Richard Compton, for Taunton School. Sharp and his brother Nigel played one game for the Club on the Easter Tour in Cornwall. Peter Yarranton, writing of the Tour, described Richard Sharp as "an up-and-coming threequarter".
In Wasps 91st season (1957-58) R. E. Syrett and A. J. Herbert were given International Caps "and in Syrett's case this gave particular pleasure," wrote President R. M. Swyer, "because he had been so close to it for such a long time". He congratulated D. Wills on his successful leadership of Hampshire, and J. E. Woodward on his election to the captaincy of Middlesex. The Occasionals, a mid-Club XV of "left-over's" led by Eric Basch, distinguished itself, by winning 15 of 19 games played and scoring 271 points against only 59. This season saw the discontinuance of C as bottom side of Club, that side henceforth appearing as an Extra B XV.
The Club had occasion for pride in December 1957, when the then Vice-President W. E. Hulland was honoured by the London Society of Rugby Union Referees at their annual dinner, by the presentation of a TV set to mark his several years of immaculate work as Honorary Appointments Secretary of the Society.
In the Club's 92nd year (1958-59) R. H. Curner took over as President. Past President R. M. Swyer referred to him as "a very complete Wasp." It was of course, as Chairman of the Ground Committee that Curner had already made his definite mark on Club history. He was presently to extend his notable influence as President for three years, one of the best the Club has had. Honorary Membership was conferred at the General Meeting on Reginald Beating, Wasps groundsman. The Vice Presidents, who deeply appreciate Beating's great work at Sudbury, invited him to their second triennial dinner at the Royal Automobile Club on June 3, 1958, in order to present him with a Club blazer. This was done to the time-honoured cry of "put it on!", which Beating duly did.
G. J. Bendon and A. J. Herbert played for England in this, Wasps 92nd season. Wasps had the honour of being asked to help with Harlequin F.C. in making an instructional film on Rugby Football at Twickenham. Members of the First X V took a prominent part. The President referred in the News Letter to the fact that three of the junior sides, the Extra A 3 (R. W. G. Wynde), the B 2 (S. T. Watson), and the Occasionals (E. Basch) each had fewer than 100 points scored against them in 1958-59.
A. J. HERBERT was elected Captain of the Club and of the First XV for the 93rd season (1959-60). The First XV played 35 games, won 19 (but drew 6) scoring 414 points against their opponents' 215. R. E. Syrett again played in an England match. R. A. W. Sharp, playing at stand-off half in place of A. B. W. Risman, who was injured, proved his genius for the game so that he eventually played in all the International matches. Sharp is the son of a Former Playing Member, F. G. Sharp (and nephew of the late I. J. Sharp). D. Rutherford, formerly a Wasp, was the England full-back. G. J. Bendon played in the R. U. Jubilee Match at Twickenham for England-Scotland versus Wales-Ireland. The B 2 XV (S. T. Watson) had the remarkable record of scoring 438 points against 91, winning 21 of 26 games they played.
After serving for 21 years as the Club's Hon. Match Secretary, E. N. Compton was obliged, through ill-health, to relinquish the post, Fortunately his son Neville was able to carry on the high tradition established by his father.
The year 1960 was saddened by the passing of several old Wasps. None was regretted more than W. H. S. Cairns, President 1948-50 and former Hon. Secretary of the Club, and W. K. Lillico, a very popular Vice President and the Club outfitter. Older members mourned the passing, in New South Wales, of Dudley Hardy, a former Captain of the Club; of E. A. Toley to whom Wasps owe thanks for great help in purchasing the ground; of W. B. Heasman of C. E. Sebag Montefiore; and of D. B. Chapple, all former members of the First XV.
During the 94th Season the First XV enjoyed their most successful season since World War II when, under Yarranton and Wills they played 34, won 25, scored 412 points against 175. The Club (President R. H. Curner) as a whole played 330, won 199, scored 3,340 against 1,969.
W. E. Hulland was honoured at the Vice-Presidents' third triennial gathering at the Royal Automobile Club on June 8, 1961, as the President-elect of the Club. The Captain of the Club, P. G. Yarranton, and the Vice-Captain of the First XV, D. Wills, received the thanks of the gathering for their leadership in a very successful past season. Seven new Vice-Presidents, elected since the last dinner, were welcomed. They were M. E. Green and F. C. Battey (1959), W. H. Blaxland, W. J. T. Farr, and B. D. Stillwell (1960), W. E. Cross and J. C. G. Washington (1961). President R. H. Curner was in the chair: he was then within a month of handing over to Bill Hulland.
Peter Yarranton and his Vice-Captain Don Wills, continued to lead the side in 1961-62 following their tremendous efforts of the previous year. The results were not so good, 18 wins in 34 matches but the great ability now gathered into the team was illustrated by having 3 players selected for England (R. A. W. Sharp, A. C. B. Hurst (died March 2011 age 76) and R. E. Syrett) with no less than 5 more gaining England Trials (P. E. Mettler, R. J. Kent, D. G. Simmonds, D. W. A. Rosser and D. Wills).
The following season 1962-63 will be long remembered by all Rugby players for the terrible winter which cut two months out of the core of the season. For Wasps this was also a year when youth took the reins from experience on the field, Andy Hurst becoming Captain with M. J. Cutter as Vice Captain, and sadly Wasps lost three Vice-Presidents, H. M. Moore (84 years) E. N. Compton and J. Hughes along with other old and valued members S. M. Alder, P. Bernard, C. W. Duthier and M. P. Thorpe, E. N. Compton (Pop) had also served as Fixture Secretary over the period which transformed Wasps list into perhaps as strong as any in the land and he handed the job on to his son, Neville (who no one dare call "Sonny") who has continued to consolidate and improve on his Father's good work right up to the present day. On the brighter side however, a Wasp was made Captain of England in the person of Richard Sharp, and Wasps Groundsman R. Bealing engaged a new young assistant called Joe Stafford, which turned out to be a very sound and wise decision as he is to day - Groundsman himself of what is now one of the best equipped and cared for grounds in the Country.
1963-64 was one of the big milestones for the Club, for Wasps were at last to occupy the New Pavilion which was officially opened by Mr. A. G. Butler, President of the Rugby Football Union on 14 September on a day when new Captain Mike Cutter led the Club against a powerful Cooptimists XV before a large, enthusiastic crowd. The New Pavilion was the fruit of several years hard sustained work of many club stalwarts to the design of Wasp player D. J. Harvey and provides today facilities and amenities of which any Club could be proud. Notwithstanding this, one still hears occasional nostalgic murmurs of regret from members and even opponents, for the loss of the much loved slum at the other end of the ground. This was also the year when "Freddie" became President. (It seems almost indecent to describe a man who joined in 1919 as a fullback, became Vice-President in 1933 and is still serving the Club in many ways as Mr. F. J. Spence) and Jack Cooke handed over Secretaryship after 13 consecutive seasons to G. H. Wilkins. Not surprisingly, "Freddie" was re-elected in 1964-65 handing over the following year 1965-66 to M. E. Barnes for a distinguished season when Wasps, under F. E. Hawkins as Captain and R. B. Collier as Vice-Captain, produced a back division to rival the famous packs of previous years. No less than four Wasps played for England, D. W. A. Rosser and T. G. Arthur, both Centres, Clive Ashby, scrum half and W. T. Treadwell, hooker and along with them, the Barbarians saw fit to add another name to the distinguished roll of Wasps honoured by this unique and respected Club, Freddie Hawkins.
1966-67 was Centenary Year when Wasps proudly joined the small band of distinguished Clubs who had reached this rare milestone. Naturally, a number of events were arranged to give proper and due recognition to this distinction. Perhaps the highest achievement was to have the rare honour of playing against the Barbarians at Sudbury when under Wasps new Captain, David Rosser Wasps played a side containing such famous names as Gerald Davies, Stuart Wilson, Rodney Webb, John Finlan and Phil Judd. Wasps were further honoured by playing Warwickshire at no other place than where it all started with William Webb Ellis so many years ago-The Close at Rugby School. The climax was undoubtedly the Centenary Dinner on 14 February, 1967 presided over by R. M. Swyer at the Park Lane Hotel and attended by 500 Wasps and friends. The Principal Guest was the President of the Rugby Football Union, D. H. Harrison and among the many many distinguished guests from all walks were four past Presidents of the R.F.U. Sir Robert Bellinger, The Lord Mayor of London and his Sheriffs, one of whom was Wasps own vice-president Bert Toye.
In the 102nd season, 1968-69, another ring of changes took place with Andy Hurst taking back the Captaincy with A. Mortimer as ViceCaptain, but A. F. Town ("Tubby") continued in his office as President for the second of his 3 years. On the field the major distinction was the selection of a Wasp for the first time as a Scottish International when G. J. Keith (Hamish) played against Wales and France on the wing.
In 1969 there was something old and something new, both remarkable in their way. The "something old" was Don Wills, (Wanderers) to the lst XV as No. 8 at the tender age of 40. He played so well that he kept his place for eight consecutive matches, which must indeed be a most unusual, if not unique performance. It was, in fact, only last year that he hung up his boots!! "Something new" was when a young, somewhat large Australian from Sydney Northern Suburbs joined and soon found a regular lst team place at lock distinguishing himself not least by eating three platefuls of egg and chips at 4.00 am in a motorway cafe returning from Nottingham. The young man played for Middlesex. His name was Garrick Fay. Although he had to return home after two seasons, the proof of his affection for his Pommie Club is evidenced by his presenting to the Wasps his first Wallaby jersey which Wasps display with great pride in the Pavilion Bar.
In 1970-71 although there was nothing particularly new, there was again something terribly old. Neville Compton was elected President. There is no Wasp held in greater esteem by either his fellow members, or the many other players and officials in other clubs, than Wasps first Barbarian, ex Captain, ex Touch Judge and still the present day Fixture Secretary. He was unanimously re-elected for the maximum permitted term of 3 years and in that time saw Wasps, who, in 1970-71 under a gallant new Captain, Alan Black, struck perhaps the nadir of their playing fortunes, start back on the slow road to recovery as they worked to build up a new team from virtually scratch. A lot of the credit for this revival started initially with the appointment of Andy Williams as coach and then in 1972-73 the task was taken on by Senior W. R. U. Coach, Leighton Williams, now a life member of Wasps.
Neville presided on 15th February, 1972 over Wasps Quinquennial Dinner when Wasps were honoured to have as Principal Guest Dr. T. A. Kemp, President of the Rugby Football Union. Amongst the many other distinguished guests that night Wasps were proud to include Dr. D. C. W. Smith, OBE, and John Dawes, OBE, Manager and Captain respectively of the incredible British Lions touring side, who in 1971 had gone to New Zealand and beaten the All Blacks on their own territory.
In March of that year after Wasps match against Nottingham, Neville Compton held a "Presidents Tea Party" (with apologies to Lewis Carroll) which was attended by six former Presidents:
- F. A. Murphy (84 years) President 1950-52
- R. M. Swyer (78 years) 1955-58 and Centenary 1966-67
- W. E. Hulland (80 years) 1961-63
- F. J. Spence (78 years) 1963-65
- M. E. Barnes (79 years) 1965-66
- A. F. Town (66 years) 1967-70
In Neville Compton's last Presidential year 1972-73 Wasps were pleased to welcome the BATS team from San Francisco and Belgrano (Buenos Aires) and Wasps were very privileged to be able to entertain the President of the New Zealand R.F.U. Pat Dwyer. One of the highlights was the return to Sudbury, an all too rare occurrence, of the Gold Wasp trophy when Wasps beat Newport 9-3 for the first time for seven years.
During the close season Wasps went on their first extended overseas tour to East Africa. After a great deal of planning and organization aided by Wasps Vice-President Alex Christie who was the current President of the Rugby Football Union of East Africa, an official party of 22 players, 8 committee members together with a Supporters party of 14 members set off on what proved to be a great success both on and off the field. Five out of six games were won with 254 points scored against 66 including beating East Africa 31-13. On 20 July, 1973 history was made when against Kenya Clubs, A. Covey came on as the first Wasp replacement under the new laws for the injured A. Shortland. (It is not inconceivable that this will not be the last time A. Covey makes history!)
1973-74 saw a continued revival in playing fortune under the dedicated efforts of the Club Coach, Leighton Williams aided by new Captain G. Morgan, culminating in the Club winning the Middlesex County Cup and its right to a place in the National Knock Out Competition, by beating Metropolitan Police 14-9 in the Final. As now seems to be coming a welcome tradition, Wasps again received a visit from a distant touring side, this time Northern Suburbs from Sydney captained no less than by Wasp Russ Tulloch (who actually learnt Rugby with us in 1964-65 so successfully that he returned to England in 1966-67 as a Wallaby) and to add to Wasps pleasure, that other Aussie, Garrick Fay, came over this season with a full Australian touring side. On a sadder note, Wasps learnt of the death of W. E. (Bill) Hulland as well as A. R. G. Harding and Wasps oldest Vice-President A. L. Tooze. This was also the moment to end Peter Yarranton's successful and impressive reign as Club Secretary, to be succeeded by I. A. Montlake who remains in office to this day. Peter Yarranton has had and seems to be continuing to have, a distinguished career in Rugby Football embracing every facet of playing and administration open to man. Playing for England (5 caps), Barbarians, Middlesex, R.A.F. and Wasps, selecting as an England Regional Selector, Barbarians and Middlesex, serving on the Committee of Wasps, Barbarians and Middlesex and now a full member of the Committee of the Rugby Football Union, might be considered enough for a whole team, let alone one man. But Peter also manages to broadcast Rugby commentaries on B.B.C. Radio London, be in demand almost nightly as one of the wittiest after dinner speakers, and in his business life he is the General Manager of the Lensbury Club-one of the largest and best sports and leisure clubs. Worse still, at over 50 years of age he still turns out in the second row for Old (very old?) International XV's for various charities.
In 1974-75 (108th season) with L. A. Shield president again and Gareth Morgan Captain, the results continued to improve, aided by a bunch of new up and coming young players. Four originated from Borough Road Colleges. Mordell, N. French, (both later to "go North"), T. Cambridge, R. Hesford, (who on moving to the West Country joined Wasps old friends at Bristol, got an England cap last season as a replacement and his first full caps this season) and G. Richards, there at last seemed to be the talent coming forward to revive the glories of the past. Geoffrey Richards unluckily suffered a broken jaw playing for England Under 23 v. The North and returned for his first senior game after 9 weeks as England Full Back v. The Rest in the Final Trial at Twickenham. Although not succeeding in gaining a cap, he was honoured with selection for the Barbarians Easter Tour in Wales. He eventually gained a full Wallaby cap in his new home in Australia. Again Wasps welcomed an Australian side, beating Gordon R. C. (N.S.W.) 16-8 and finishing the season by again winning the Middlesex County Cup by beating Wasps old rivals Saracens 6-0.
During the 1975-76 season the playing record slowly continued to improve under the coaching of Leighton Williams who was appointed Senior Coach by the Welsh Rugby Union and the players were now assisted in fitness training by Sergeant G. Floyd of the R.A.F. who was also responsible for coaching and training the R.A.F. boxing team. Alan Black continued as skipper with Geoffrey Richards as Vice-Captain and the latter, along with Nigel French and B. Adam achieved England Trials. N. French being very close to getting capped following some superb performances in representative games.
Wasps had two overseas visitors, Wanderers (N.S.W.) and Waitemata (Auckland) the latter beating us in a close fought match, giving us a valuable lesson in rucking and mauling. Unfortunately Wasps failed to make a hat trick of Middlesex Cup wins, losing 6-13 to Saracens in the Final. Sadly Wasps lost two old friends and great Wasps in S. R. Sparkes and E. G. (Pip) Piper.
During the Summer of 1975 the Club engaged Chipmans of Horsham to carry out extensive works to the lst XV pitch which included a complete new drainage system. More than three hundred tons of sand was filled into the fine slits which were cut crisscrossing the field at nine inch intervals to give the excellent drainage Wasps now experience. Additionally a new watering system was laid to enable the simultaneous watering of all Wasps three pitches. Further work was carried out in 1976 and in the two years period nearly £12,000 was spent in bringing about what is now arguably the best pitch in the South of England and as many players, both Wasps and opponents will testify, has withstood the test of an abnormally wet and icy winter. Recent weather conditions would in past years have necessitated the issue of life jackets to intending players. It must be recorded that nearly £5,000 of the finance for this project was provided by the members with the balance coming from within the Club's ordinary revenue. Additionally the special seed used was provided by a former player, Giles Rowsell.
The Quinquennial Dinner to celebrate the i 10th season was presided over by Brian Godfrey who, in his first year as President, had been awarded the O.B.E. in the New Year's Honours list for his services to the Catholic Church.
Geoff Richards, the new Captain and his Vice-Captain, Nigel French, led the Club to mixed results in a season in which Wasps suffered an above average number of injuries. Wasps welcomed Tony Richards, who had toured with the victorious England side in South Africa in 1972 and joined us from Fylde on coming to live in London. It was a time in which Wasps continued to improve for although Wasps won only a few more games than they lost, a lot of Wasps defeats were by the smallest of margins. Penarth were beaten on their first visit to Sudbury and Wasps travelled to Stourbridge to celebrate their centenary.
Towards the end of the season, Geoff Richards emigrated to Australia after leading us to victory over the Metropolitan Police in the final of the Middlesex Cup. It is likely that only a broken jaw and glandular fever had prevented him from winning an England cap. Little did Wasps realise at the time that he would soon be capped by his new country and would also appear in Wasps colours again at a time when the Club most needed him. Wasps also said goodbye to New Zealander Mike Leggett who had decided to return home but the lure of Sudbury proved too strong and he was back for the start of the 1977/78 season and remains with us to this day.
Tony Richards took over he captaincy and led the side on an ambitious tour of Canada in the summer which involved coach travel of 1,800 miles and five matches, in Montreal, Toronto, Ontario and Ottawa, three of which were won.
Recognition of the work that had been done on the playing surface of Wasps main pitch came in December 1977 when an England divisional trial was staged at Sudbury with three Wasps players involved-Nigel French, Ian Ball and Micky Connor.
French had been an England reserve the previous season and had played for England against the U.S.A. but unhappily he was injured in the trial and a knee operation kept him out for the remainder of the season. In successive weeks Wasps welcomed touring sides from New Zealand and Australia-Wellington and Northern Suburbs-and beat them both. In January 1978, Wasps played Richmond in the first round of the John Player Cup. Wasps Australian full-back Mike Fitzgerald had been badly injured a few weeks earlier and Wasps were fortunate to be able to call on Wasps former skipper Geoff Richards, who had returned home briefly to get married. Although the game ended in a 9-9 draw, Wasps went into the second round as the away team, beating Waterloo at Sudbury by 10-9. This was followed by a home quarter-final against the mighty Gloucester side, losing by 13-3 but winning a great deal of praise both for Wasps play and for the way we staged the match before the largest crowd to be seen at Sudbury for many years. The Middlesex Cup was won for the fourth time in five years when Wasps beat Saracens by 12-4.
During the close season, Geoff Richards, called out to New Zealand because of injuries to the Australian touring party, won an International cap against the All Blacks when he went on the field as a replacement. Another former Wasps player, Garrick Fay, was also in the Australian side that day. Before the new season began, Wasps installed floodlighting on the training pitch at a cost of approximately £7,000.
In the 1978/79 season, Ian Palmer joined us as coach and Middlesex played Munster on Wasps pitch and later Kent, the first time they had played a county game at Sudbury in many years. Marist St Pats, then the Wellington champions, gave us a bit of a hiding in a mid-week game but Wasps had a close win over Newport to regain the Golden Wasp. The Club suffered a blow when fly-half Ian Ball joined the Barrow Rugby League side, as far as the club knows, the first Wasp to "go North" but unhappily not the last.
Before the club had time to absorb fully this set back came the news that Wasps were to be joined by a genuine All Black, Mark Taylor, capped eight times by New Zealand and the only member of the party to stay on after their tour of the British Isles. It was some time before he was able to turn out for us as all the January fixtures were wiped out by bad weather. Mark eventually made his Wasps debut on a frozen pitch in a Middlesex Cup game against Staines, partnering Nigel French in the centre, the only time they were to play together as Nigel then followed Ian Ball to Barrow Rugby League.
Wasps best run in the John Player Cup began with a 11-0 win over Blackheath in which the inspired selection of Alan Black, brought back to the side for the first time that season, proved to be a trump card. Wasps went on to beat Hartlepool Rovers by 10-6 and London Welsh by 6-3 in a thrilling quarter-final before crashing heavily to Leicester, the eventual winners. Some consolation was gained the following day when Wasps beat Met Police in the Middlesex Cup final, ironically the only way Wasps could ensure a place in the John Player Cup the following season as once again Wasps Merit Table results had let us down.
The Club received a shot in the arm in March when, after weeks of speculation, Roger Uttley, the former England captain and British Lion, announced that he would be joining us the following season when he moved to the Home Counties. The Wanderers, captained by John Devonport enjoyed an unbeaten season, winning all their 23 games.
The 1979/80 season brought a new President in E. R. (Nick) Nicholson and a new Captain in Tony Cooper as Tony Richards had decided to retire from first team football. Mark Taylor was elected vice-captain and Roger Uttley, a man of his word as one newspaper said at the time, lined up at number eight. Alan Black had decided to turn to full-time coaching but was nevertheless given the honour of captaining the Southern Counties against the touring side from Canada. Once again Wasps played a touring side from the Antipodes, this time Suburbs (Auckland), New Zealand's largest club, whom Wasps beat by 21-6.
It was very much a mixed season again. All hope of emulating Wasps previous runs in the John Player Cup was lost when Wasps were beaten 6-3 by Bedford in a disappointing game. Roger Uttley played for England in their Grand Slam season. Nigel Horton, the England lock forward played a number of games for us commuting from France. Wasps lost the Middlsex Cup to Saracens after beating Harlequins in the semi-final and yet another of Wasps leading players left to join a Rugby League club, this time Wasps captain, Tony Cooper. But the season ended on a high note with a memorable win over London Welsh which ensured Wasps entry into the third round of the John Player Cup the following season and won us a methuselah of champagne from the Sunday Telegraph/Victoria Wine as team of the week.
A scratch but lethal seven that included Uttley, Taylor and Kit Fawcett, another All-Black playing just a few games for us before returning home, nearly won the Middlesex Tournament, leading Richmond, the holders and eventual winners by 18-4 in the semi-final before losing 20-18.
During the summer of 1980, a further £3,000 was spent on a sand injection to maintain and improve the drainage of the first team pitch and a major drainage project was carried out on the second team pitch at a cost of £ 16,000. Work was nearly completed on installing a gymnasium in the Pavilion. The Club also undertook its most ambitious overseas tour-three weeks in the Far East, where, under the leadership of Mark Taylor, the new Club Captain, all seven games were won, two in Bangkok, two in Singapore, two in Jakarta and one in Hong Kong.
Wasps lost Wasps opening Merit Table game against Richmond on return but then a string of victories indicated that Wasps were in for a good season. Newcomers included the highly-promising young Yorkshire scrum-half, Nigel Melville and Clint McGregor, the prop forward, who joined us from Saracens but was later to move to France and play for Angouleme. An unbroken sequence of wins in October earned us another methuselah of champagne and Wasps remained undefeated until mid-November when Wasps lost narrowly to Leicester. During this time Wasps frequently fielded five or six backs who were under 21. At the end of the year, Roger Uttley decided to retire after a recurrence of an old back injury and Mark Taylor played for the Barbarians against Leicester. In the New Year Wasps were beaten 15-9 by London Scottish in the first round of the John Player Cup and suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Bridgend on Wasps first visit to the Brewery field. However, Wasps won more champagne for a fine win over Gloucester and were undefeated in the normal fixture list from the beginning of February to the end of the season, Wasps only loss sadly being to Saracens in the Middlesex Cup semi-final. Richard Cardus, an England centre, joined us from Roundhay in March and Nigel Melville and Paul Rendall were selected for the England tour of Argentina. A Wasps seven won the London Floodlit competition for the first time. With only six defeats, it was Wasps most successful season since 1960/61 when the side was captained by Peter Yarranton.
During the summer of 1981 Wasps had the luxury of Wasps training pitch being fully drained thus making all three pitches at Sudbury professionally designed and drained by Messrs. Chipmans.
This significant achievement together with the addition of an enviable gymnasium and further improvements in medical facilities have all been made largely possible by the money derived from Wasps long association with Wembley Stadium. '
Wasps relationship with Wembley goes back to 1976 when the then General Manager David Griffiths, a former first XV wing, and then chairman of Wasps ground committee, proposed that the club should provide a working party of 200 crowd-control stewards for a pop concert in the stadium. Since that time, as a result of the untiring efforts of three of Wasps current playing members, Les Lewis, David Gardiner and Sol N'Jie, almost every major event within the Wembley complex has a presence of Wasp's Stewards carrying out important functions.
Also during the summer, Geoff Richards was capped again for Australia against France and Hud Rickett, who played for us from 1974-76 won two caps at lock for New Zealand against Scotland.
In the current season Wasps have played host to two more visiting sides from Virginia (U.S.A.) and Eastwood District (Australia) and have enjoyed new fixtures against Otley and Orrell as well as a special game against the Combined Services.
1982 has begun on a high note with Nick Stringer being capped by England as a replacement against Australia and Nigel Melville and Paul Rendall also being selected for the bench with every prospect of gaining caps before much longer.
In September 1995 Rugby Football entered the professional era. That change came as a bolt from the blue to rugby in general and Wasps Football Club in particular. It altered the course of the game as played and administered by Wasps since 1867, with almost as great an impact as Wilkinson J's drop goal was to have on the destiny of the World Cup in 2003. Payment to players became legitimate after years of "shamateurism" and a professional players' union was born, led by a Wasp, Damien Hopley.
The business world and its demands overtook enthusiastic amateurism. The burden of retaining players came into sharp focus and it fell to the Club's administration to resolve the position, while very largely probing into the darkness of the future; no-one knowing with any degree of certainty what Wasps would find. Financially, Wasps position was precarious. The Club's assets were, broadly speaking, only equal to its liabilities with prospective income uncertain in the new era. Creditors shared the tremors shaking the foundations of the game. Players' contracts had to be settled against that background and some of Wasps stars sought and found pastures new.
While not wanting to part with the ownership and control of the Club's prime asset at Sudbury, every avenue was pursued. Three valuations of the ground were prepared between late 1993 and March 1996. The last, dated March 6th, valued the ground and clubhouse at £832,000. All conceivable combinations of options were considered in an effort to make a decision compatible with Wasps circumstances and the unknown demands of the future. Wasps were in a vicious circle of known assets versus undetermined liabilities, over and above those already being shouldered by an amateur administration with professional skills, freely given. Nervous creditors demanded better security. In addition, Wasps had the escalating difficulty of finding fresh avenues of income in the form of sponsorship from outside the game, upon which Wasps FC had become increasingly dependent.
These were desperate times that normally would have preceded the demise of most voluntary associations. Not Wasps. The years between September 1995 and the purchase of the ground at Twyford Avenue in December 2005 became a most eventful chapter in the history of the Club. On May 24th 1996 a shaft of light breached the gloom. Christopher Wright of Chrysalis PLC, introduced by Alex Finch, wrote a letter to the late Sir Patrick Lowry, then chairman of the Management Committee, in which an offer was made to purchase 49% of Wasps and its assets. The ground at Sudbury would be retained and used for training purposes by the professionals and would still be available to Wasps FC under the terms of a licence.
The offer was conditional on Chris Wright completing his purchase of Queens Park Rangers and its ground at Loftus Road, allowing all First XV games to be played at the soccer stadium. An improved offer was made on June 6th and later that evening accepted by the Wasps committee. Things were moving at some pace, though still subject to the purchase of QPR. The Trustees of Wasps FC signed a non-binding agreement with Chris Wright on June 21st 1996. The proposed agreement was then referred to a re-convened EGM held in the hallowed halls of Harrow School on July lst, by kind courtesy of Roger Uttley, and was enthusiastically endorsed by perhaps the largest gathering of members ever assembled. Such was the interest generated by the unfolding events.
On July 10th an historic Business Transfer Agreement was concluded for the transfer of all of Wasps assets to Wasps Football Club Limited in exchange for 100% of the shares in that company; the ground and clubhouse being valued at £832,000. That transfer was followed on August 5th by a share exchange agreement by which Wasps acquired 4,899,999 shares at 50p per share, equal to nearly £2.5M, (and one preference share called "the golden share") in Loftus Road PLC in exchange for its shares in Wasps Football Club Limited.
Wasps FC became a substantial shareholder in Loftus Road PLC, freed from debt but with a home at Sudbury under the terms of a licence protected by the rights attached to "the golden share". Within the contracts was a clause providing for payment of a sum "not exceeding £20,000" per annum to Wasps FC. Those payments stopped later when the creditors of Loftus Road PLC put the company into Administrative Receivership. Following the presentation of the Club's accounts to Her Majesty's Inspector of Taxes a substantial tax liability was raised. This was discharged by the sale of one million of the shares in Loftus Road PLC for approximately £ l M net. The remaining shares were sold later for £108,000. That money was used to the pay some of the ongoing costs incurred in the legal action taken against the Club's valuers.
Loftus Road PLC sought and obtained approval for its floatation on the AIM market on October 16th 1996 and the floatation went ahead on the 24th, supported by a Prospectus disclosing a valuation of £5.7M for the ground, clubhouse and two residential properties at Sudbury as at July 12th, with some weight being attached to the prospects of residential development.
Wasp FC, while not blossoming, held its own in amateur rugby and continued to enjoy the use of the ground, with the professionals training midweek under the guidance of Nigel Melville at Sudbury. In May 1999 a planning application to Brent Council for residential development was refused but granted later, on July 27th, following an enquiry held by the Inspector at Brent Town Hall. The ground was sold by Loftus Road PLC with the benefit of that planning consent, for the construction of 111 residential units, on December 21st for £11.9 millions.
With the approval of the Management Committee, the disparity of the various valuations attributed to the ground at Sudbury, was examined by Ivor Montlake and others. Favourable legal advice was received from David Railton QC under the guidance of Anne McCarthy, now the Club's honorary solicitor and a partner in Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham who remain the Club's solicitors.
In March 2002 an action for damages was instituted against the Club's valuers by Wasps three trustees, Sir Peter Yarranton, Don Wills and Ivor Montlake. The Writ of Action alleged negligence in the preparation of the valuations, upon which the "Way Forward Committee" of the Club had relied in all aspects of its thoughts and negotiations, for the disposal or re-arrangement of the Club's assets to meet the demands of the new professional era. On May 6th 2004, after three very long and harrowing weeks in Court 21, in the basement of the High Courts of Justice in The Strand, judgment was given in the Club's favour by the Honourable Mr Justice Langley.
(It was established that he bore no relationship to the late John Langley, the Club's president at that time and who sadly died in November 2005, just before the completion of the purchase of the new ground at TwyfordAvenue in December.)
The judgment awarded damages together with interest, from January lst 1997 to May 6th 2004, with costs to be assessed. The award included Capital Gains Tax in the event that that liability could not be avoided. This meant there was no final closure on delivery of judgment and the final sum payable would not be established until the CGT issue had been resolved. This would be a matter of years rather than months with the constant spectre of Her Majesty's Inspector of Taxes hovering over the Club at a time when clear water and tranquillity was needed by all concerned.
Although judgment was given in May it was not until December 23rd of that year that settlement was reached following mediation under the guidance of Sir Brian Neill and a payment of £5.2m was made to the Club's solicitors. In reaching that compromise figure the Club put into the balance the Capital Gains Tax issue, interest and costs together with the likelihood of an appeal by the defendants who enjoyed the benefit of almost infinite resources.
By that stage the costs of the action were overwhelming the Club's meagre funds. Professional fees were outstanding to the Club's barristers and solicitors, together with accountants and valuers who had provided expert evidence to the Court. Enormous costs had been incurred by Wasps Trustees, in most cases outstanding for many months. Yet Wasps expert witnesses continued to give their wholehearted support, being prepared to await the final outcome. Without additional funds and Wasps creditors' forbearance, the whole action was at risk. Wasps Trustees were grossly exposed and it became imperative that the Club should settle while the tide was in Wasps favour; further exposure to risk was not realistically an option. The Club had achieved its goal on principle but did not, perhaps, realise the full potential of the claim. The Club's mediation team, to its great credit, took the points.
After payment of all the costs and expenses incurred during the two and a half arduous years of litigation, Wasps FC was able to contemplate the future with some confidence. In December 2005 Wasps FC was once again a freeholder and the custodian of the potential in Twyford Avenue, Acton, purchased from Chris Wright for £2M, plus an insulting £80,000 stamp duty paid to everyone's friend the Chancellor. The Club is now without debt, in funds and still a minority shareholder in London Wasps Holdings Ltd. having invested £400.000 to save London Wasps from the hands of the Administrator who had been appointed in the affairs of Loftus Road PLC. Those Club members who had contributed their shares in Loftus Road when the remainder of the Club's holding was sold for £108,000, have been repaid and income has been generated by Wasps close association with London Wasps, supported by the letting of pitches to the local school. All of this has come to pass since the last Quinquennial [)inner in 2002.
This page in Wasps history could not have been written without the contribution of those Wasps officers and members who recalled events, disclosed documents, offered guidance in the Club's cause, gave evidence as witnesses, and generally came-to-the-aid-of-the-party. Chris Wright, chairman of London Wasps Holding Ltd, and the late Charles Levinson, his solicitor and a close friend of long standing, assisted as witnesses and giving evidence. Mark Rigby, a former captain of the Club, and Malcolm Evans a former treasurer, together with Ivor Montlake and Tony Simmons, gave evidence on the Club's behalf.
It is perhaps ironic that had the Club been in possession of funds sufficient to finance the action in 2001, the Management Committee would not have sought the Club's approval to explore and pursue the merits of Wasps case; so great were the pitfalls and the consequences of failure.
The development of the ground at Sudbury was completed more than two years ago, new houses and gardens cover all three of Wasps original pitches. The entrance gates remain together with the ticket office on the right. On the left of the gates is a Wasps Football Club sign and in the distance the clubhouse is there as it was forty years ago, now shabby and neglected without any moving sign of human activity. Floodlights remain on the fourth pitch, the only trace of recreational life. A sad sight on a grey day ... but Wasps memories are intact. What remains of Sudbury are names, there is a Chilcott Close and a Hastings Close. How those names were chosen is not known, there is however, a COMPTON CLOSE, inspiring a smile, a chuckle and injecting some life into what is now merely another housing estate.
Ivor Montlake was the Club's nominated Director on the board of London Wasps Holding Ltd. From instigating the examination of the Club's prospects of action in 2002 to final settlement in 2004, followed by the purchase of Twyford Avenue a year later, Ivor guided the club and goaded Wasps advisors, as all parties danced attendance to the tune of that most demanding of all mistresses, the Law of Professional Negligence.
Litigation, it is said, should be undertaken and enjoyed only by the rich, the lucky or the misguided. Wasps were none of these but characteristically performed on the day and came through with the application of sound basic law, to resolve what was perceived by many within the club as an injustice. A view totally vindicated by the result.
Professional rugby is by no means the only innovation Wasps have witnessed these recent years. In Wasps game. each week Wasps colours are sported in mini and youth rugby and the Ladies have achieved three consecutive league titles. Plus a league and cup double in 2004/05 ! Claire Purdy tells us, "Last September, when the Women's Rugby World Cup was played in Canada, Wasps had the largest contingent fill players in the England squad and no fewer than nine flew to Edmonton to represent England, Canada and Samoa. Back home the ladies have begun a long term recruitment process needed to continue and maintain Wasps successes in the leagues.
"This season has seen a positive start and a number of talented and developing new players are proving themselves to be dedicated Wasps and getting involved at every opportunity. The mission for Wasps Ladies is to continue to grow alongside the club while providing a welcoming and sustainable rugby environment open to all, where participation, competition and enjoyment are key to becoming the most successful ladies rugby club in England."
Wasps have found a true home at Twyford Avenue, in winter the ground hosts rugby football virtually seven-days-a-week. The amateurs are re-establishing themselves, the ladies' sides maintain their leading role, mini and youth rugby flourish and though the RFU may have other ideas, plans for the professionals to stay at High Wycombe - continuing to train at Acton are very much alive.
May 20, 2007, Wasps Beat Leicester 25-9 to Win rugby union's Heineken European Cup for the second time, denying its opponent an unprecedented treble of titles in this season's club competitions. Eoin Reddan and Raphael Ibanez scored tries from lineouts to give Wasps a 13-9 lead at half-time. Fly-half Alex King, who missed four kicks at goal in the first period, found his range in the second half, notching four penalties and a drop goal in all.
During the 2007/08 season, Wasps went from 10th in the league during October, to beat Leicester Tigers in the Guinness Premiership Final. This sealed a dream send-off for the retiring Lawrence Dallaglio at Twickenham. Wasps won 26–16 thanks to penalties by Mark van Gisbergen and tries by Josh Lewsey and Tom Rees to become the English 2008 champions. Wasps have now won six league titles in all, equal with Bath and just one behind Leicester.
The 2008/9 season was to see Wasps come unstuck. With their captain having retired, many of the players failed to play to their full potential. Wasps would eventually finish in seventh place, having also failed to reach the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup and EDF Anglo Welsh Cup. James Haskell, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer and Tom Voyce all left the club.
On 12 May 2009 it was announced in the evening standard that Ian McGeechan had been forced to step down and will now take a consultancy role both at London Wasps and London Scottish. This was confirmed by the BBC on 14 May. Tony Hanks, a former coach at the club, was announced as the new Director of Rugby soon after. He had more recently been coaching at Waikato and also been a stand in for McGeechan for the latter part of the 2008/09 season, whilst he was primarily committed to British and Irish Lions duty. McGeechan had technically been a Lions employee for the whole season and through agreement with Wasps was loaned back to the club.
Steve Hayes took a controlling share in the club. Wasps ended without a trophy for the first time in six years.
The 2009/2010 season started off with an exodus of key players including James Haskell and Tom Palmer who moved to Stade Français, Riki Flutey who also crossed the channel to join Brive and Eoin Reddan who left to join Leinster in Ireland. In late February it was announced that Danny Cipriani would be leaving for the Melbourne Rebels in Australia.
After beating Gloucester 42–26 in the Quarter final of the Amlin cup scoring 5 tries including a hat-trick from winger Tom Varndell, Wasps lost 15–18 at home to Cardiff Blues in the Semi final with Dave Walder kicking all of Wasps points with 5 penalties. Cardiff subsequently beat French Top 14 side Toulon in the final of the competition at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.
Wasps attract a crowd of 60,000 to Twickenham for a St George's Day game against Bath.
2010-11: Wasps moved their LV= Cup match against Harlequins to Abu Dhabi but the season ended in disappointment and Steve Hanks was replaced as director of rugby by Dai Young.
2011-12: In July, the club was up for sale after Wycombe council turned down plans for a new stadium. Takeover talks collapsed in April leaving the club in a perilous situation. Meanwhile, owner Steve Hayes was named as a suspect in Scotland Yard's computer hacking investigation. Wasps struggled on the pitch.
2014: Wasps completed the full purchase of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Wasps, were traditionally a London team but have played at Adams Park in High Wycombe for the past 12 years, the move had previously been approved by the Professional Game Board.
In October, the Premiership team bought Coventry City Council's 50% stake in the stadium, and then acquired the remaining shareholding from the Alan Edward Higgs Charity.
The stadium's tenants Coventry City reportedly had an offer to buy the charity's shares turned down.
Coventry City will continue to play in the stadium after Wasps make the move from their current home at Adams Park in High Wycombe, 82 miles south of the Ricoh.
The North Stand of the arena will be renamed The Higgs Charity Stand, with Wasps saying that 50p from every ticket sold in the stand will go to the charity, which offers grants to communities around the city.
"We are looking forward to embedding ourselves in the region and helping promote rugby - something we have already committed to by making over 12,000 free tickets available to Coventry schools and rugby clubs," said Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood.
"We recognise that this announcement might raise concerns amongst the fans of Coventry City Football Club.
"Wasps remain committed to building a long-term and mutually productive relationship with the club and its supporters."