A DEAL has been completed for Coventry City to stay at the Wasps-owned Ricoh Arena for another year after this season.
The Sky Blues will continue to pay £100,000 rent to the Wasps-owned Arena Coventry Limited – the same terms as the current four-year arrangement which expires at the end of this season.
A deal had been expected to be completed by Christmas. Coventry City sources have since told us it had been awaiting the rugby club’s sign-off.
An announcement confirming the deal’s completion is expected imminently.
It follows negotiations concerning matchday costs for the Sky Blues, we understand.
The short-term nature of the deal will do little to address ongoing fans’ concerns about Coventry City’s future – in terms of finding a long-term home.
Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones is the latest to have raised the issue, in the House of Commons.
Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Trust’s deal to sell the Sky Blues’ home to then London Wasps Holdings Limited in 2014 left the rugby club with nearly all the commercial revenues and borrowing potential from the stadium asset, and its ’24-7′ commercial activities.
Much of the revenue from Sky Blues’ matchdays alone has been going to Wasps.
That 2014 deal remains the subject of a legal dispute.
The Sky Blues’ owners Sisu is seeking a judicial review, claiming the circa £19million deal on an asset independently valued at £48million unlawfully shortchanged city taxpayers.
If the action is successful, Wasps – already indebted with £35milion of debts residing in a troubled retail bonds scheme – could be the subject of further action and might have to repay millions of pounds.
A judge has called for mediation between the two sides.
Legal wrangling began in 2012 with non-payment of rent and subsequently failed discussions over joint Ricoh Arena ownership.
The Sky Blues and Sisu have said throughout the legal dispute over Ricoh Arena rent, revenues and ownership that the club needs more commercial revenue from a stadium to compete successfully.
The Sky Blues have long been considering moving to the Butts Park Arena home of Coventry rugby club, where there are plans to expand the ground and commercial activites.
But rugby club chairman Jon Sharp last year said it could not ‘deal with Sisu’ amid the ongoing disputes, and called for peace.
This season has seen more focus on the football rather than off-field politics, with the club challenging for League Two promotion back to League One on tight resources, and reaching the fifth-round of the FA Cup.
Team boss Mark Robins has repeated urged any stay-away Coventry City fans to support the team and club by attending home games, with all ticket revenue going to the club.
UPDATE: the official statement from Wasps representatives reads:
Wasps Group and Coventry City have concluded a new one-year agreement for the Sky Blues to play their home games at the Ricoh Arena May until the end of the 2018-2019 season.
Talks have taken place between Nick Eastwood, Wasps Group Chief Executive, and CCFC Chief Executive, Dave Boddy, since September and, with the help and support of the EFL, a new one-year licence has been agreed.
Nick Eastwood said the move had not been made on commercial grounds.
He said: “The agreement which was put in place to allow the football club to return to the city is in its last season. We fully appreciate the importance to Sky Blues supporters of their club playing in their home city, so we have agreed to a one-year extension with the football club.
“CCFC have on numerous occasions expressed their wish to move to a stadium they own, but with those plans not yet realised this agreement will give the Sky Blues an extra year to secure a new home.
“This is certainly not a commercially-driven decision, and there are plenty of financial and other arguments for us not continuing with any agreement, but we do not wish to see the football club disadvantaged.
“We understand the importance to supporters and the city itself of having Coventry City playing in Coventry. That has been at the forefront of our thinking, despite the significant distraction of the current legal proceedings.
“It is widely known that there are obstacles – in the form of the current legal proceedings – which stand in the way of a longer-term agreement.
“We believe it is important for all parties concerned that we clarify at this stage that, unless those obstacles have been overcome by the time those discussions for the 2019/20 season would normally commence, then, regrettably, we will not be in a position to enter such discussions.”
CEO Dave Boddy said: “We’re very pleased to announce this agreement, which is a deal for the Club to continue playing at the Ricoh Arena until at least 2019.
“The talks have been very positive between us, and conducted in a spirit of co-operation, which I’m sure will continue as we look to further develop the relationship between us.
“Importantly, this agreement gives supporters the certainty of where they will be watching their team play next season and provides stability to the club.
“I completely understand the frustration that some supporters expressed about the minimal updates during the winter but we were massively restricted in what we could say publicly due to the fact that we signed a Confidential Non-Disclosure Agreement ahead of negotiations, but hopefully fans understand why this was the case ahead of today’s positive announcement.
“Now our focus turns back to football and the excitement of our first ever Community Day game on Saturday, when it will be fantastic to see a bumper crowd supporting Mark Robins and the team while setting a League Two record attendance.”