Coventry tell EFL they have no say in Ricoh row but have two groundshare options
Coventry have told the English Football League they are close to agreeing terms with two clubs about sharing their ground next season but have admitted that current home the Ricoh Arena is not one of those options.
The Sky Blues must tell the league where they will be playing their games next season by April 25 or they face being expelled from the league.
Coventry’s relationship with the Ricoh Arena has been strained for years as financial problems meant they were tenants of Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity by the time they moved in at the start of the 2005/06 season.
Hedge fund SISU Capital bought the club in 2007 and the plan was they would eventually buy a stake in the stadium management company and perhaps even take outright ownership at some point in the future.
That, however, never got close to happening as the club slid down the leagues and relationships between SISU, fans and the city council deteriorated.
Matters came to a head in 2013, when a row over rent saw Coventry quit the Ricoh and share Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium for a year.
They returned a year later but a new dispute erupted when the council sold its 50 per cent share in the ground to rugby union club Wasps, who then took full ownership of the ground by buying the charity’s stake, too.
SISU has been fighting that decision in the courts ever since, twice losing judicial reviews but refusing to throw in the towel.
The club’s tenancy agreement at the ground runs out this summer but Wasps will not enter into renewal talks while SISU is continuing legal action against the council.
SISU has said it will drop the case if the council helps it relocate to a new purpose-built ground and Wasps let Coventry play at the Ricoh while the new home is being built.
Fans and local politicians have repeatedly called for a truce but there has been little sign of that and the EFL is determined to avoid a repeat of the Sixfields debacle.
In a statement on Thursday, the EFL board said it still has not received a “definite application” from Coventry on where they plan to stage home games in 2019/20.
It reminded the club that an extraordinary general meeting has been convened for April 25 “to consider their expulsion” if Coventry cannot come up with a satisfactory plan.
“The EFL understands that it is the club’s preference to extend their stay at the Ricoh Arena for future seasons and this would meet the EFL’s ultimate objective of ensuring they continue to play in the city of Coventry on a long-term basis,” the league added.
But shortly after that statement was released, Coventry posted a statement on their website saying it was close to agreeing terms with two groundshare options but neither is the club’s current home.
“While it remains our number one priority to stay, we can confirm that unfortunately the Ricoh Arena is not one of the venues above,” the club said.
“At this stage, Wasps continue to choose not to enter into talks while our owners SISU continue legal action with Coventry City Council.
“Regrettably, we therefore have had to make alternative plans to the Ricoh Arena, the stadium that was built for us, to ensure our place in the EFL next season. The groundshare proposals would do that.
“This is not an easy situation, and we apologise to supporters that it has reached this stage and for the heartache which has been caused.
“Coventry City and its management team cannot affect the stances of Coventry City Council, Wasps or of our owners in this situation – what we can do is put in plans to ensure this great football club continues to survive despite the impasse that exists, and that is what we will do.”