Tuesday, June 03, 2008

And some days are the best

Saturday was a great day, and it has taken me a wee while to come down from such an emotional high. It's strange that the vicarious participation in someone else's sporting triumph can deliver such a surge of adrenaline, such a feeling of well-being and such a feeling of success.
I did nothing to enable Wasps to lift the Guinness Premiership trophy at Twickenham last Saturday other than turn up and shout a lot. But as a fan, I'm feeling suffused with the same sense of achievement that's running through everyone involved with my favourite rugby club at the moment.
Perhaps it's why sport and business will always be separate. Beating Leicester, our greatest rivals, 26-16 just felt soooo good. I've watched Wasps since I was a kid, and my emotional attachment to them is mighty. Perhaps that's why it has felt all the more wounding, all the more hurtful in recent years as the old 'clubby'; atmosphere where players mingled with supporters and the cost of participation through attendance was a fraction of football prices has been removed and replaced by a far more corporate culture. It doesn't sit easily even though we all understand the economics of it.
Perhaps after Saturday, the ruling powers of the game and of its clubs will acknowledge that our relationship with them is more than transactional. It's not simply a b2c relationship, but something far more emotional than rational. If Wasps can tap into that, they'll turn their losses round pretty darned quickly.
And it looks like they're playing a strong hand in so doing. On Saturday, Lawrence Dallaglio led the team out for the last time. He bestrides the amateur and professional era with 18 years of club service as a player now behind him. In every way, his representation of Wasps is immense, absolutely embodying the heart and soul of the club.
His next challenge is to champion the club off the field, to help move us to a purpose-built stadium where the club can generate the kind of income that will enable it to win future successes of similar magnitude to the four league titles, two European Cups, one European Challenge Cup, one Anglo-Welsh Cup and two domestic Cups that it has won in the past decade.
The gap between the club's needs and the goodwill of its communities is small, but previous regimes have built barriers rather than bridges. But if anyone is going to break those barriers and enable Wasps to generate the revenue the club undoubtedly needs without alienating all those with a strong emotional bond to the black and gold, it's Lawrence Bruno Nero Dallaglio.
In very tough economic circumstances, I suspect Lawrence has only one chance, perhaps no more than 18 months to make things happen. But if anyone will, he will.

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