SKY Blues fans have slammed ‘kick in the teeth’ plans to sell the Ricoh Arena to rugby union side London Wasps.
The Aviva Premiership outfit are rumoured to be in talks with stadium owners Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) over plans to buy controlling stake in the arena and relocate to the city.
Although there has been no official confirmation the Observer understands the rugby club is interested in buying a 90 per cent stake in the stadium.
The news comes as a big blow to Sky Blues fans just weeks after the League One club returned to the city as part of a temporary rent deal which many hoped would end the on-going dispute between the club and ACL.
And leading fans’ group, Get Cov Back To The Ricoh, is urging all fans and other groups including the Sky Blue Trust, to oppose any sale to the rugby club in a bid to avoid any permanent deal for City being scuppered.
“News of this so soon after the Ricoh return is a kick in the teeth not just for Coventry City fans but for Coventry rugby fans too.” said Get Cov Back To The Ricoh co-ordinator Stuart Cosgrove.
“We call on the Ricoh’s owners to work towards a permanent solution with our football club – without which the Ricoh would never have been built.
“Our fear is there is a continuing agenda to oust the club’s owners without demonstrating any real prospect of success – which only serves to destabilise the club and put our entire future at risk.
“Any offer to London Wasps should at the very least be offered to whoever owns Coventry City.”
London Wasps already have a history of playing matches at the Ricoh having used the venue to stage ‘home’ Heineken Cup fixtures against Northampton Saints and Munster, both of which attracted crowds of over 20,000.
Both the rugby club and ACL have refused to deny any discussions are currently taking place.
In a statement on its website the rugby club confirmed it has been linked to a ‘variety of locations’ both inside and outside of London.
The statement added: “Wasps has made no secret of our desire to find a permanent home which reflects the ambitions of the Club.
“We have also been exploring opportunities for high-profile European games, should we progress to the knock-out stages, as those games have to be played at a stadium which has a minimum capacity of 15,000.”
The council, which owns a 50 per cent stake in the Ricoh, said any interest about the stadium’s future would be made in the interest of the city’s taxpayers but that all options to maximise the venue would be considered.
Despite public outcry, MP Bob Ainsworth hinted he would welcome the move if it could develop and maximise the stadium’s economic potential.
He added: “If that can be achieved, and at the same time Coventry’s sporting reputation enhanced, the opportunity should be seized.
“I would like to see Coventry propelled up the ranks of sporting cities and local people given the opportunity to watch top class sport without having to travel.”