WYCOMBE Wanderers Supporters Trust have dealt a blow to Wanderers’ and Wasps’ hopes of moving to a proposed new community stadium in Booker by refusing to back their plans.

The trust, which has two directors on the Wanderers board, issued a statement today saying they could not support the clubs’ plans for a new stadium and sports village at Booker Air Park.

Trust Communications director David Cook said: “Our statement is by no means the end-game, but a plea for more consultation.

“We are not saying never, but we can't support it in its current form.”

Their stance will be a setback to Wanderers and Wasps who have been pleading for support for their scheme which could see the £67m stadium form the centre piece of an £88m sports village.

The Trust, which was set-up to protect the football club’s long term interests, say they are not ruling out the move full stop, but say they need more details and more assurances before they can back the scheme.

They say there is insufficient evidence to suggest it is in the best interests of the football club and are calling for much more flesh to be put on the bones.

The Trust board, which voted unanimously against supporting the proposal in its current form, has raised concerns over the control and finances of the project as well as questioning Wanderers’ need for a 17,500 stadium.

Their stance will be a setback to those pushing for the new stadium, coming just days before Wycombe District Council’s public consultation process closes.

Cook said: “I would hope they ask us to sit down with them and talk the issues through. We don't want to be at war with WSDL or with the council or with anyone else.”

When asked if the trust had been asked for its input into the plan, he said: “I think it might have been the polite thing to have done. I don't know whether it would have changed our view however. In a sense our statement here is a plea for more consultation.”

The full statement from the Trust reads: Wycombe Wanderers Trust’s primary objective, in all matters, is to safeguard the interests of Wycombe Wanderers Football Club, nothing more, nothing less. Accordingly, the decision taken by the Board of WWT not to support the Wycombe Community Stadium & Sports Project in the structure proposed by Wycombe Sports Development Limited (WSDL) has been taken in that light. Meetings are being arranged for formal approval of this decision by WWT membership.

WWT is extremely proud of the fact that Wycombe District Council has the desire to back the development of facilities within Wycombe, encouraged by the depth of that investment and impressed with the forethought and planning behind the use of council assets for the benefit of the wider community and the football club. We applaud the way WDC is now working with the Club and the Trust to resolve a number of long standing issues.

The development of a 17,500 seater stadium at Booker is of limited benefit to WWFC in terms of capacity, although the case for ease of access and better facilities has been well made. The benefits of the overall plan to the community are obvious and the additional seating will be valuable to London Wasps at a number of their games. From the WWFC perspective however, as long as the design can ensure an atmosphere for a 4,000 – 6,000 footballing crowd and as long as there are demonstrable long term financial benefits for WWFC, we do not have any planning objections to the move, in principle.

However, at the present time, WWT finds itself in the position of being unable to support the project in its’ current form for two main reasons: Control and Beneficiaries The control of the project currently resides in a small new shell company WSDL with two individual shareholders. WSDL will manage the entire plan and the residual benefits derived from the council’s enabling contribution. Those shareholders will decide what benefits will be enjoyed by the component clubs and other developments on the site. We cannot endorse the WSDL lead in this plan in its present form.

WWT understands that WDC also wants to see a robust financial and management structure in place. In particular both Wanderers and Wasps must have clear funding lines so both clubs can benefit from the non-stadium income the WSDL development creates.

WWFC are, and have been for over a century, the long standing footballing asset in the Wycombe area. WWFC is the local element in the plans and the trigger for enabling development. As such WWFC should be a major beneficiary should the Booker Plan progress. Under the current proposals. and in WWT’s more recent discussions with WSDL, no comfort has been received that this would be the case.

The current position is that WWFC owns Adams Park and has Wasps as a tenant. This puts WWFC in a position of strength. Under the Booker proposal WDC will build the fabric of the stadium and then WWFC would be asked to sell its Freehold Asset, Adams Park and reinvest the entire proceeds in Leasehold fit-out costs for the benefit of both clubs whilst having no ownership of this residual investment.

Financial Projections, Management and Auditing The financial management of both Clubs does not give WWT confidence for the future. It must be pointed out that the clubs’ trading histories are less than satisfactory and are under the same management as WSDL.

WWFC, in particular, has a history of financial projections which have proven massively over optimistic. In this process, WWT has received a single spreadsheet which purports to show a benefit to WWFC of moving to Booker. WWT has not seen any third party audit or confirmation of these figures.

WWT has yet to be convinced that the current structure and management of WSDL is capable of delivering a stable business that can cope not only with the running of the clubs but also of a complicated and enhanced multi faceted facility. That does not mean that WSDL cannot be strengthened to ensure the long term robustness that we all seek.

WWT will continue to work with WDC, WWFC and WSDL to seek an outcome that protects both the short and long term interests of WWFC and, to this end, is arranging a meeting, open to all supporters, on 11th November, at Adams Park at 1930.

WWT shares in the desire for on field success linked to a financially stable future.