Coventry City’s bid to jointly own the Ricoh Arena company with rugby club Wasps has been rejected.
The Coventry Observer website exclusively revealed last week the bid to 50pc shareholder Alan Edward Higgs Charity was being submitted – via CCFC Limited liquidator Paul Appleton.
The charity had two options to consider, the club’s bid and another from Wasps, believed to be for £2.77million.
Wasps today announced its bid has been accepted, and it now has 100pc ownership of the Ricoh company, Arena Coventry Limited.
A response is awaited from the football club, including on whether it will challenge the decision.
CCFC chairman Tim Fisher had said the club had made a “very generous offer” which included working in partnership with the charity on football community programmes with educational and health benefits for local youngsters.
Last month, Coventry City Council agreed in private to sell the other 50 per cent shareholding in Arena Coventry Limited to Wasps.
As part of the council’s deal, council sources disclosed last month the council’s right to veto any proposed sale of the Higgs share would pass to Wasps.
It would have given Wasps the power to veto – or block – any purchase of the Higgs shares, should the charity have decided it wanted to sell to the club.
Fans’ opinion on social media and internet forums remains divided, although many believe the stadium should be at least half owned by the club it was built for.
Sisu says its needs to own a stadium to obtain crucial revenues, and has employed property consultants CBRE to find a site for a new stadium in the local area outside the city’s boundary.
Wasps today also announced the Ricoh Arena’s North Stand will become The Higgs Charity Stand and for every Wasps match ticket sold in this stand, the charity will receive 50p.
Nick Eastwood, Wasps Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to confirm our acquisition of the remaining 50% shareholding in the Ricoh Arena.
“We are looking forward to embedding ourselves in the region and helping promote rugby – something we have already committed to by making over 12,000 free tickets available to Coventry schools and rugby clubs.
“The Alan Edward Higgs Charity is a hugely important charity for Coventry and Warwickshire and it was important for Wasps to continue to support their work in the local community and preserve their legacy at the Ricoh Arena.
“We recognise that this announcement might raise concerns amongst the fans of Coventry City Football Club. Wasps remain committed to building a long term and mutually productive relationship with the club and its supporters.
Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen, Clerk to the Trustees for The Alan Edward Higgs Charity, said: “The Trustees are pleased that the Arena project is in good hands and that the business will continue to grow and diversify to promote further regeneration in Coventry which will provide more jobs and boost prosperity in the city. The charity appreciates the contribution to its work as part of Wasps real and tangible commitment to the community.”
The Club’s first match at their new home will be their Aviva Premiership Rugby clash against London Irish on Sunday, December 21.
The football club currently has a two-year deal as tenants of the Ricoh, with the option of extending it for a further two years.
It has “primary” to fulfil its fixtures, which means it plays its matches on Saturdays, and the Wasps on Sundays. Concern among some fans about the state of the pitch is already surfacing following a friendly rugby game at the Ricoh last week.
A statement made by Coventry City football club this afternoon said: “This morning the liquidator’s offer for a stake in the Ricoh Arena company, was turned down by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity.
“Naturally, the club are extremely disappointed. Our proposal was for a far-reaching partnership with the Higgs Charity to work together on community projects. Our offer was a unique opportunity to meet the twin objectives of the Club and the charity, using the power of football and sport in creating community cohesion and for the benefit of the whole Coventry community.
“Despite the fact that access to critical documentation was denied, the liquidator’s offer for the charity’s 50% stake in the Ricoh Arena was generous – around £2.8 million – and guaranteed above market value price. Alongside the proposed CCFC-Higgs Charity partnership, we felt this was the right deal for everyone concerned that demonstrated our ambition for the future of the club in the city. We have pursued every possible avenue.
“Our deal at the Ricoh with Wasps remains in place. We will be playing our home matches there for the next four seasons and look forward to working with Wasps to ensure our mutual success on and off the field.
“Our ultimate goal is to return CCFC to the Premier League but we can only do this if we own our own stadium, allowing us to access 100% of our revenues. In the near future, we will be able to give our fans more details of our plans and tell you where the new stadium will be.
“The liquidator has declined our request, in the interests of transparency, to publish the full details of the offer. We have released in full the detail of our proposed community partnership with the Higgs Charity. We have continually stated since our return to the city, that community will be at the heart of our development and that still remains very much the case.”