SKY Blues’ owners have today won the right to appeal last year’s judicial review verdict in the Ricoh Arena row which had found in favour of Coventry City Council.
Court of Appeal judges today ruled the Sisu group of companies can go ahead with a full appeal into the Judicial Review judgement in June last year, which found the council had acted lawfully in agreeing in private to bail out Ricoh firm Arena Coventry Limited with a £14.4million taxpayer loan in January, 2013.
Sisu had argued the loan was a ‘state aid’ designed unlawfully to drive out the football club’s owners.
But judge Justice Hickinbottom ruled last year the council had acted lawfully to protect its 50 per cent share in ACL at a time when Sisu was refusing to pay rent at a level considered by many to be too high.
Two previous attempts by Sisu to appeal that ruling were rejected, until today.
A full appeal is expected to take place on or around October 1 this year.
A Coventry City Council spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the judge has found in favour of the claimants, SISU, who can now move to appeal the Judgment in last year’s Judicial Review. The Judicial Review had upheld the Council’s actions in making a loan to ACL in January 2013.
“We will continue to defend the decision which the council made based on cross party support, which was designed to protect the city’s interest in the Ricoh Arena.”
The council and the Alan Edwards Higgs Charity, then the joint owners of ACL, later sold Coventry City’s home ground, in October last year, to Premiership rugby company London Wasps Holdings Limited on a long 250-year lease, which was not offered to the football club.
Sisu is seeking to raise the subsequent sale of the stadium to Wasps as part of its case that the council had acted unlawfully.
A Sisu statement says simply: “The Court of Appeal today both granted SISU leave to appeal and expedited the appeal. We will therefore have the opportunity to present the case before a full panel of Appeal Judges very shortly.”
Sisu is to seek millions of pounds in compensation on the basis that it was commercially disadvantaged by the council’s actions, including resulting Football League points deductions for the Sky Blues.
A judge said today compensation would be possible if the appeal was won. He suggested Justice Hickinbottom appeared to have made errors in his judgement, including regarding how the council potentially over-estimated the value of ACL.
Judge Rider suggested the council, rather than properly protecting taxpayers’ interest in ACL, might have been better off financially to allow ACL to collapse rather than bail it out with the loan.