KEY PLAYERS in the bitter Ricoh Arena row have been invited along to an open fan’s forum later this month to speak openly and honestly about the on-going dispute.
A three-day judicial review hearing into whether the council unlawfully used taxpayers money to take on a £14.4million loan from stadium owners Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) took place at Birmingham’s High Court this week.
It saw the likes of Sisu boss Joy Seppala, Sky Blues chief executive Tim Fisher, ACL director Paul Harris and council director Chris West in a room for the first time since talks between the club and ACL collapsed in early 2013.
And Sky Blues non-executive director, Mark Labovitch, has once again invited all sides, including the likes of Gary Hoffman and Joe Elliot, to attend the forum which is set to take place at the Parish Centre of Christ the King in Coundon on June 27 (7pm).
Labovitch told the Observer, “I hope we can have a full and frank exchange between all of us, without any spin doctors present. We want everyone involved to have a proper conversation with fans.”
Club owners Sisu and the council are both awaiting the verdict of the judicial review which is expected to be made in the week commencing June 30.
At this point it is not understood what impact the outcome will have on the future of the Sky Blues and their chances of returning to the Ricoh.
But Labovitch once again stressed the need for the League One club to gain access to matchday revenue. “No club can ever be financially viable in the long term without an ownership interest in its stadium and access to all the revenues generated by the matches it puts on. If the club was back at the Ricoh as a tenant without access to these revenues, it would go bust again, like it did under its previous owners. The 2003 experiment of separating a club from stadium revenues simply didn’t work.
Those fans who have met Joy have heard first-hand how committed she is to the club’s future. She is determined to make it a success under its outstanding manager, but we can’t do that without the long-term financial security of our own stadium. As we’re not allowed any form of ownership of the existing one, we’ll have to build a new one”
And he also hinted that the relationship between the club and the council needs to improve for the good of the city. “Over the past 15 years, the council leadership seems to have had a poor relationship with the club’s owners – past and present. I think that needs to change. Councils in other cities – whether it’s Swansea or Doncaster – know that a successful football club is a huge asset to the local economy.”