We put the key ques­tions to City, Wasps, Sisu and coun­cil

RI­COH ROW

Coventry Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By KATY HAL­LAM Chief Re­porter katy.hal­[email protected]­plc.com

WITH Coventry City look­ing likely to be home­less in a mat­ter of months we put a se­ries of ques­tions to all of the key play­ers in the Ri­coh Arena saga.

We sent ques­tions to the Sky Blues, club own­ers Sisu, sta­dium own­ers Wasps, for­mer sta­dium share­hold­ers Coventry City Coun­cil and the English Foot­ball League, which has ap­par­ently warned the foot­ball club it will not be al­lowed to play out­side the city.

The club’s par­ent com­pa­nies are press­ing ahead with le­gal ac­tion over the Ri­coh Arena, putting them on col­li­sion course with land­lords Wasps who have been clear that they won’t have talks on ex­tend­ing the rent deal while they are be­ing taken to court.

With the clock tick­ing and the foot­ball club say­ing that the club’s fu­ture in the Foot­ball League is “se­verely at risk”, Sisu have so far failed to re­spond to the ques­tions we emailed to all par­ties on Thurs­day last week.

The EFL did re­spond but has de­clined to answer our qe­su­tions.

We are pre­sent­ing the ques­tions and an­swers in full here so you can make your own mind up about the an­swers. We posed these ques­tions for Tim Fisher, as he is the foot­ball club chair­man and a di­rec­tor of Sky Blue Sports and Leisure and Otium, the firms named in the the le­gal ac­tion. The an­swers came from a club spokesman not Mr Fisher.

Ques­tion: What hap­pens if City can’t play at the Ri­coh Arena?

“The EFL have made clear to us that we must play in Coventry - our in­ten­tion is to agree a deal to play at the Ri­coh Arena, the sta­dium built to be the club’s home back in 2005. With­out this agree­ment in place for next sea­son, our place in the EFL and the club’s fu­ture is in jeop­ardy.”

Ques­tion: Given the clear warn­ing from the land­lords about le­gal ac­tion block­ing a new rent deal, is the le­gal ac­tion in the best in­ter­ests of the club?

“The Wasps man­age­ment and share­holder have made clear the Wasps po­si­tion re­gard­ing the court ac­tions pur­sued by the Own­ers. That is, un­less court ac­tions stop then Wasps will not en­ter into a new agree­ment with the foot­ball club to play at the Ri­coh Arena.

“How­ever, the club be­lieves a deal can be agreed. This deal for the club to play at the Ri­coh Arena is in the best in­ter­ests of the Foot­ball Club, Wasps, Ri­coh Arena and the wider com­mu­nity and most im­por­tantly our sup­port­ers.

“The day to day work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the club,

Wasps/ Ri­coh Arena is ex­cel­lent. In­deed, pre­vi­ously court ac­tion con­tin­ued while ex­ist­ing deals to play at the sta­dium were agreed by CCFC and Wasps/ Ri­coh Arena. We be­lieve where there is a will, there can be a way.”

Ques­tion: Are you ac­tively look­ing at al­ter­na­tive sta­dium sites?

Our focus is on achiev­ing a deal that works for ev­ery­one at the Ri­coh Arena. The club must se­cure a deal to play at a sta­dium for next sea­son, and the Ri­coh Arena is the only vi­able option for the club. With the risk so great, and the dead­line so close, a deal to stay at the Ri­coh Arena has to be our goal and that of ev­ery­one who cares about the Foot­ball Club and the com­mu­nity.

Ques­tion: What do you plan to do, with re­gards to the le­gal ac­tion, if the Supreme Court re­ject your ap­pli­ca­tion? Will that be the end of le­gal pro­ceed­ings?

The club has ab­so­lutely no say in the le­gal ac­tion - in­clud­ing whether any le­gal ac­tions are pur­sued or not. This is a mat­ter for the share­holder/owner. SISU drive the le­gal process and in­structs le­gal coun­sel. The Club nor its Chair­man and Se­nior Man­age­ment do not and can not make any de­ci­sion on the court pro­ceed­ings, or if this con­tin­ues or if it stops. Our focus is solely on the day-to-day run­ning of the Foot­ball Club.”

Ques­tion: Is CCFC up for sale?

That is a ques­tion for the own­ers of the club.

Ques­tion: What is Coventry City? Just a name? A badge? What does the club ac­tu­ally own?

“Coventry City is more than a name and more than just a Foot­ball Club - it is a sig­nif­i­cant part of this city’s his­tory, cul­ture and a fa­mous cor­ner­stone in­sti­tu­tion in our City. That is why, in 2014, Coventry City Coun­cil only agreed the sale of their share in Arena Coventry Lim­ited to Wasps on the con­di­tion that the “se­cu­rity and fu­ture of Coventry City Foot­ball Club” was guar­an­teed.

“We have all seen the strength of feel­ing in the city for the club. Just this year, some 37,000 fans trav­elled to Wem­b­ley and many who could not travel fol­lowed the match on TV from Coventry. Over 50,000 Coven­tri­ans wel­comed the pro­mo­tion win­ners home on the open top bus pa­rade.

“Coventry City is em­bod­ied by play­ers past and present, the Man­ager, club staff, our

cher­ished Academy and the ex­cel­lent work of Sky Blues in the Com­mu­nity.

“Coventry City will mean many things to many peo­ple - mem­o­ries of first games, go­ing to matches with friends and rel­a­tives and the sup­port of the Club through many gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies. It has a rich his­tory, stretch­ing back 135 years in this City, and a mas­sive con­nec­tion with this com­mu­nity.

“It is for these reasons and many more that it is vi­tal the Club’s fu­ture is se­cured, so that we can con­tinue build­ing our his­tory and con­tin­u­ing to take pos­i­tive strides for­ward that we have made in the last 18 months.”

Wasps

Ques­tion: You say you are aware of the “im­pli­ca­tions” of Wasps not en­ter­ing into dis­cus­sions for a new rent deal for CCFC. Are you aware some City fans may blame Wasps if the club is kicked out of the Foot­ball League?

Nick East­wood, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, of Wasps Group said: “We have been made aware there may be im­pli­ca­tions for Coventry City should its own­ers not cease their le­gal ac­tion. I am sure that peo­ple - whether fans of rugby, foot­ball, both or nei­ther - un­der­stand that we can­not en­ter dis­cus­sions while le­gal ac­tion over own­er­ship of the Ri­coh Arena is un­der­way.

“We made our po­si­tion clear when we com­menced ne­go­ti­a­tions on the cur­rent deal in late sum­mer 2017, so the foot­ball club and its own­ers have had since then to take the steps which are nec­es­sary to safe­guard their own fu­ture at the Ri­coh Arena.

“It is en­tirely in their hands and we hope com­mon sense will pre­vail to al­low us to move for­ward for the good of Coventry City and their sup­port­ers, the Ri­coh Arena and the city as a whole.”

Coventry City Coun­cil

Ques­tion: At the meet­ing of full coun­cil 9th Septem­ber, 2014, when the sale was unan­i­mously agreed, coun­cil­lors de­bated the fol­low­ing:

The com­mit­ment that any deal re­lat­ing to the Ri­coh Arena would not be ap­proved un­less the fol­low­ing three tests were sat­is­fied:

(1) A good deal for the City

(2) The se­cu­rity and fu­ture of Coventry City Foot­ball Club

(3) The se­cu­rity and fu­ture of Coventry Rugby Club

The then coun­cil leader Anne Lu­cas said at the press con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the sale on Oc­to­ber 8, 2014: “This deal would not have hap­pened if it threat­ened the fu­ture of the Sky Blues or Coventry Rugby Club.”

Is the coun­cil sat­is­fied these tests are still be­ing met? Does the coun­cil have any powers to en­force these?

Joint state­ment from Cllr Ge­orge Dug­gins, Leader of Coventry City Coun­cil and Cllr Gary Ri­d­ley, Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tive Party, Coventry City Coun­cil: “Back in 2014, Coventry City Coun­cil was very clear that the ex­ist­ing ten­ancy the foot­ball club had to play at the Ri­coh Arena must be hon­oured as part of any sale to Wasps.

“This ten­ancy had four years to run and the length was ne­go­ti­ated by the foot­ball club as its in­ten­tion was to then move to a new sta­dium. As a re­sult, this 2014 pledge was ful­filled by both Coventry City Coun­cil and Wasps.

“The fact that the foot­ball club is now strug­gling to have a con­firmed ground to play in from next sea­son can­not be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Coventry City Coun­cil, par­tic­u­larly when this is a di­rect con­se­quence of the foot­ball club’s own­ers de­ci­sion to con­tinue with their lit­i­ga­tion. Whilst we can re­spect their right to pur­sue le­gal pro­ceed­ings, we can­not be held re­spon­si­ble for the im­pli­ca­tions of them do­ing so.

“Wasps have al­ways made clear the cir­cum­stances un­der which they will be happy to sit down and ne­go­ti­ate a longer term fu­ture for the Sky Blues to play at the Ri­coh Arena. That option still ex­ists and is en­tirely within the gift of the own­ers of Coventry City Foot­ball Club should they wish to.”

Sisu

We sub­mit­ted these ques­tions to Sisu via email. No re­sponse has yet been re­ceived.

What hap­pens if City can’t play at Ri­coh Arena?

Given the clear warn­ing from the land­lords about le­gal ac­tion block­ing a new rent deal, is the le­gal ac­tion in the best in­ter­ests of the club? Are you ac­tively look­ing at al­ter­na­tive sta­dium sites?

What do you plan to do, with re­gards to the le­gal ac­tion, if the Supreme Court re­ject the ap­pli­ca­tion? Will that be the end of le­gal pro­ceed­ings?

Is it still your stance that CCFC is not up for sale?

What IS Coventry City? Just a name? A badge? What does the club ac­tu­ally own?

English Foot­ball League

We sub­mit­ted these ques­tions to the English Foot­ball League via email. The EFL de­clined to answer our ques­tions.

What hap­pens if City can’t play at Ri­coh Arena?

Is it still the po­si­tion that a ground must be within eight miles of Earl Street?

Would you take away the golden share?

Which league would City have to start again in? What powers does the League have if it de­cides own­ers of a club are not act­ing in the best in­ter­est of the club?

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