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