30th Jun, 2022

UPDATE: BREAKING: Coventry City to play at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground again next season - as Ricoh talks fail

Les Reid 24th Jul, 2020 Updated: 27th Jul, 2020

COVENTRY CIty will groundshare again at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground in The Championship next season.

The club has announced the news this evening which will come as a disappointment to those fans who wanted a return to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry after a successful one year away ended in promotion.

But no agreement has been struck with would-be landlords Wasps rugby club, despite protracted negotiations in recent days.

It follows news this week of the football club’s hopes of building a new stadium to call its own at the University of Warwick within five years, if granted planning permission.

The club has been in dispute with Coventry City Council before and after the local authority approved the sale of the Ricoh Arena to then London Wasps in 2014.

City left the Ricoh as tenants last year amid ongoing potentially legal wrangling. The club’s owners Sisu had filed a complaint to the European Commission about the Ricoh sale, having lost ‘state aid’ domestic court cases.

A statement this evening from CCFC reads..

The Club, and also our Owner, have been clear in our desire to return to Coventry as soon as possible and we entered into negotiations with Wasps Rugby Club, landlords at the Ricoh Arena since they moved to Coventry in 2014, in the Winter in good faith and hopeful of a viable and realistic deal which ultimately would benefit both Clubs and the wider community.

Wasps said publicly following our promotion to the Championship that they “would like to see the Club playing in its home city at the Ricoh Arena” and that they “believe that should be the ambition of all concerned, in the bounds of reasonable commercial terms and conditions.”

However following months of negotiations and despite being very close to agreeing commercial conditions, the same issues that prevented a deal last season have again prevented a deal for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately we are unable to disclose full details due to the requirement to sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to negotiations taking place.

Last year the critical issue was Wasps’ insistence of indemnity clauses into the license agreement, with this indemnity for themselves and for a third-party.

Coventry City and its Owners last year, during failed talks for the 2019-20 season, made a written undertaking to irrevocably cease all proceedings against Wasps relating to the sale and lease of the Ricoh Arena. No legal action against Wasps or its Owners exists, and Coventry City and its Owners have again made this same undertaking this year.

Despite this undertaking, the clauses introduced by Wasps, for themselves and for a third-party, then added conditions that would unreasonably restrict the Club and SISU’s basic legal rights and would commit the Club and SISU to underwrite Wasps’ and that third-party’s costs and all future damages.  This would put the Football Club at substantial risk and jeopardise its very future.

As last year, what the landlord requested of CCFC’s owners and the Club was simply not deliverable. It can again be argued that the landlord was fully aware of this.

We would like to thank those individuals involved in the process of helping to bring the parties together.  We regret that their efforts and ours did not come to fruition.

We would again like to thank the EFL for their understanding, help and patience with this matter, and extending Monday’s deadline until today to try to help us resolve the issues.

We would like to thank Birmingham City and their staff for their continued support in this situation. They were excellent to us last season, and we have no doubt that they will continue to be. We of course do not want to be there but have been forced again to take this action to ensure fixtures next season can be fulfilled.

We completely understand the feeling of fans regarding groundshare and playing in Birmingham – we have made every effort behind the scenes to avoid this scenario, but now this is the case we will again be making the best of this situation for our fans, players, staff and everyone connected with the Club, and urge fans to again back Mark Robins and the team next season back in the Championship.

Details regarding 2020/21 Season Tickets and other arrangements will be confirmed shortly.

Going forward, it is vital that Coventry City Football Club returns to Coventry as soon as is possible.

As announced earlier this week, Coventry City and the University of Warwick are progressing with plans to develop a new stadium on land on the main campus of the University, with easy access for fans living in the City of Coventry. The Club will own and be entirely responsible for the cost of the stadium and its operation; equally, the Club will receive all stadium revenues it generates. Importantly, it will be a stadium that the Football Club and its fans can call home.

Whilst we all wanted to play back in Coventry at the Ricoh Arena in this interim period while the stadium is developed, we will look ahead with excitement for this vital project for the Football Club.

Having celebrated the League One title and promotion, we now look ahead to next season – we want to build a strong team in the Championship and support Mark Robins and his team in realising their goals in the campaign ahead, and whilst we know our fans will be disappointed at today’s news, they will see the progress being made throughout the Club.

WASPS RESPONSE

Wasps have responded to the football club’s statement with the following words..

“We are totally surprised and deeply disappointed that the owners of Coventry City have taken this decision when we were very close to reaching commercial agreement on a deal.

“We had held positive and constructive talks with the football club at management level for several months and both sides believed they had a workable arrangement which was good for all and would see Coventry City back at the Ricoh.

“We did not require the football club or its owners to sign any indemnity around legal action over the Ricoh Arena, and firmly believe that we had made the deal as commercially attractive as possible.

“We, like everyone else, believe the football club should be playing its home games in the city that bears its name and its decision to choose to remain in Birmingham is a wasted opportunity on a massive scale.

“The news that CCFC is working in partnership with the University of Warwick to create its own stadium was not communicated to us until after it was released publicly but we continued to endeavour to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion and believed that was the case.

“Sadly Coventry City’ s late decision to withdraw today has brought current negotiations to a close for the foreseeable future. We were not aware the club would be making a statement this evening and will be looking carefully at elements of what they have claimed, and may possibly comment further in the next couple of days.”

CCFC RESPONSE

Following the statement by Wasps late on Friday night, Coventry City Chief Executive Dave Boddy has sought to respond to incorrect claims made by the Ricoh Arena landlords, and to clarify the situation for fans and in the interests of transparency and honesty regarding the situation

Mr Boddy said:

“For Wasps to say that Coventry City ‘pulled out’ of talks is absolutely disingenuous.

“CCFC had a deadline from the EFL of Monday 20th July at 5pm to inform them where we would be playing our home games for the 20-21 season. This date had been known to Wasps for some weeks. I personally twice told Stephen Vaughan (Wasps CEO) the date and all parties engaged in the process had been sent written confirmation of this deadline from the EFL some weeks ago.

“The principle and concept of an indemnity against Wasps and a third party was absolutely a requirement, and this indemnity would have put the Football Club at substantial risk and jeopardise its very future.

“We would be happy to produce correspondence to support all of our claims but unfortunately we are bound by the NDA, which we signed at the start of talks at the insistence of Wasps.

“Because progress was being made the EFL extended the deadline twice during this week to Friday;   and on that expiry we were instructed by them to confirm where we would play. All parties in the process were well aware of these extensions.

“We were faced with exactly the same problem last season, and were effectively ‘timed out’ by them again.”

Mr Boddy added:

“Throughout my three-and-a-half-year career at the club, Wasps have consistently and flagrantly ignored critical deadlines set for us by the EFL and treated them and those deadlines with disrespect. In fact, they only instructed solicitors to act for them on Monday morning when they were well aware of the Monday 5pm deadline.

“It happened regularly when we agreed the one-year extension to our last license for the 2018-19 season. The EFL have been nothing but supportive during the whole period of time I have been at the Club.”

WASPS FURTHER RESPONSE (Monday, July 27)

We have been consistently clear that we would like to see Coventry City (CCFC) return to the Ricoh Arena. Everyone agrees that it is in the best interests of the supporters, the city and the local community. We have done everything in our power to make this happen and were very close to having an agreement in place which allowed the club to return – and on terms which were attractive to both parties.

The decision of CCFC’s owners not to return the club to the Ricoh is disappointing and we understand the reaction from their fans who were hoping for a different outcome.  We share the fans’ frustration.

We have read the comments made by representatives of CCFC in recent days and debated whether we wished to lend them any credibility by responding or to get drawn into a public war of words. However, we believe it is important to defend ourselves against the accusations levied at us, and to address and clarify certain points.

No “Indemnity clause”

One point we have remained firm on throughout negotiations is the need to protect ourselves from future further litigious behaviour, directly or indirectly, by CCFC’s owners. The fundamental principle being that there should be no further proceedings about the ownership of the Ricoh Arena. The rationale for this is obvious given CCFC owners’ long history of legal action and their publicly stated intent to pursue all legal channels to reverse Wasps’ acquisition of the Ricoh.

However, Wasps did not insist on an indemnity clause as has been claimed – this claim is simply false.  In addition, nothing in the agreement would have put CCFC at substantial risk, as has also been claimed.

Wasps have incurred tens of thousands in legal costs in attempting to achieve the best possible outcome for all parties, including Sky Blue fans, which again underlines our keenness to do a deal.

This is not the outcome Wasps were hoping for.

NDA

We believe CCFC owner’s call to waive the NDA is nothing more than a tactic to distract fans. Their implication, that Wasps has something to hide, is defamatory. As they are more than aware, the NDA was signed by several parties who trusted in the enduring integrity and spirit of the agreement for the protection of their commercially sensitive data and of the independent individuals involved. It is misleading to suggest that it is simply up to Wasps to waive the NDA. We see this as nothing more than an attempt to publicly pass on the blame.

Where do we go from here

CCFC’s owners have made their decision. Wasps were (and remain) surprised that CCFC owner’s withdrew from negotiations.  They have never communicated to us why they withdrew – and we now have to get on with our business. We are only clarifying these points after recent articles in the press and online. We do not propose to give credibility to any other claims or distraction tactics by commenting further at this stage.

As ever, we remain ready and willing to welcome CCFC back to the Ricoh Arena.

Are you on Facebook?

Like or follow our Facebook page - facebook.com/CovObserver to get daily news updates straight to your news feed.

Book an Advert

Book your newspaper advert with our online advert creation tool.

Buy Photos

Buy photos online from the Coventry Observer newspaper.

Digital Advertising

Advertise on the Coventry Observer to boost your online presence.

Reader Travel

Check out all of the latest reader travel offers to get your hands on some free gifts.