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Coventry still intent on building new stadium despite Ricoh return

Wasps v Northampton Saints – Aviva Premiership – Ricoh Arena
(Image credit: Nigel French)

Coventry chief executive Dave Boddy has confirmed the club will continue with plans to build a new stadium, despite announcing a return to the Ricoh Arena.

The Sky Blues revealed on Wednesday they will return to the Ricoh Arena to play their home matches from next season after agreeing a 10-year deal with stadium owners Wasps Rugby.

But there is a break clause in that contract which would allow the club to move to their planned new site at the University of Warwick.

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“It’s a very positive deal for the football club, not only being rightly back in Coventry but also putting us on a strong footing to continue our development,” said Boddy.

“The deal is for 10 years with a break clause at seven years, which accounts for the club and our owners’ aim of developing a stadium of our own with the University of Warwick and at the same time giving us stability.

“In the meantime, there are positive changes at the Ricoh Arena that fans will see compared to recent years that we have been there, and we look forward to announcing details of those to our fans in the coming weeks and months.”

Coventry have shared Birmingham’s St Andrew’s stadium since August 2019 and will continue to play their home matches there for the remainder of this campaign.

The agreement with Premiership Rugby team Wasps will remain in place until 2031, from the start of the 2021-22 season.

“This is fantastic news for the club, our community and most importantly the supporters,” said Boddy.

“We look forward to building a positive and co-operative relationship with Wasps Group over the term of this agreement, the length of which allows us stability as a club as we look to continue our progress on and off the field.

“The deal is also the best that the club has had at the Ricoh Arena in terms of access to commercial revenues, which will further aid the development of the football club.

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“We can’t wait for fans to return to the Ricoh Arena. There is much work to do and planning has already started, but we ask that fans bear with us as we put in place what we need to for our return before we communicate further information.

“We know that the day that our fans are able to come back and watch their team in Coventry is one that they will be already looking forward to.”

Wasps Group chief executive Stephen Vaughan said: “It is time to put the past firmly behind us. There has been a massive amount of work going on behind the scenes to get us to this point as both organisations felt it was very important that we agreed a long-term deal to bring certainty and continuity, which would in turn allow us to build even stronger futures.”

Coventry’s return to the Ricoh Arena will mark the end of a long-running saga. The Sky Blues left Highfield Road in 2005 to move to the stadium but, after a long-running rent row escalated, they spent the 2013-14 season playing their home games at Northampton’s Sixfields.

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They returned to the Ricoh Arena in September 2014, with Wasps moving in later that year. The ground, part-owned by the city council, was then sold to the rugby union club.

Coventry spent the next four full seasons there but Sisu, the club’s owners, could not reach an agreement with Wasps to play the 2019-20 campaign there and found alternative arrangements at St Andrew’s.

Andy Street, West Midlands’ mayor who mediated between the two sides over what he called a “roller-coaster” past year, said he was “beyond thrilled” a deal had been struck in what he called a “monumental day for Coventry”.

He said: “It was never right for a city of Coventry’s stature to have its football club playing its home games in another city, and I know what a sore spot it was for the fans who take such pride in both their team and their city.

“This is what drove me throughout the negotiations, and I am so delighted that persistence has paid off and we’ve got the positive outcome the city and its football fans so badly deserved.”