COVENTRY City Council leader George Duggins has indicated the council will NOT be taking part in new mediation talks involving MPs aimed at resolving the long-running Sky Blues dispute and keeping the club in Coventry.
Following this newspaper’s questions to the council and Ricoh Arena owners Wasps as to whether they would take part, Councillor Duggins this afternoon released a statement, which it is understood was cleared by his colleagues on the ruling Labour cabinet.
It states: “Like all fans, the Council is keen to ensure a strong and successful football club in the city.
“However, the Council does not have any influence over where the Club plays or the location of its training academy/training facility. These are matters for the Football Club to raise with the relevant parties.
“In the event that mediation is successful and/or other plans come to fruition, the Council will consider any planning application and/or requests relating to the Council as landowner in respect of the football club in accordance with our statutory duties.”
We exclusively revealed on Sunday that early stage mediation talks were taking place between parties, initiated by MPs. We revealed Chris Heaton-Harris, Conservative MP for Daventry, is involved in the talks, and is understood to be reporting to sports minister Tracey Crouch.
Asked by us to confirm categorically that he was saying the council would not be taking part in the mediation at any stage, Coun Duggins told us he had nothing to add to the statement, given the ongoing legal dispute.
Public and political pressure could result from today’s statement, including from within his own party.
The statement falsely asserts the council – which is freehold owner of both the Ricoh Arena they sold to Wasps in 2014 and Coventry rugby club’s Butts Park Arena – has no influence over Coventry City’s stadium and academy matters.
Coventry South Labour MP Jim Cunningham has been calling on ‘any and all parties’ including the council to take part in mediation, and he last year called on the sports minister to appoint a suitable mediator.
Many Coventry City fans – while opinion is divided – have taken to internet forums to call on the council and Wasps to indicate they are willing to take part in mediation talks, after a five-year dispute.
As we revealed, the football club is calling through the mediation process for “active not passive support” from Coventry City Council for a long-term solution for their youth academy and a stadium – with a switch from the council-backed Wasps-owned Ricoh Arena to Cov rugby’s Butts Park Arena expanded to ‘12,000 to 25,000-capacity’ being the club’s preferred option.
Coventry rugby club yesterday confirmed it is willing to join in the mediation talks over the future of Coventry City Football Club – and that a groundshare at an expanded Butts Park Arena remains possible.
The Coventry Observer yesterday called on Ricoh owners Wasps and Coventry City Council to confirm in the public interest that they are willing to take part in the proposed multi-party mediation talks.
Wasps’ representatives have only told us so far the former London rugby club is currently “not involved in any mediation.” We have sought further clarification.
Coventry City Council leaders and Wasps have previously stated they were not willing to talk over long-term stadium solutions for the Sky Blues under parent company Sisu, while there is ongoing legal action by Sisu against the council’s Ricoh Arena sale to the then London Wasps in 2014.
Others, including this newspaper, have pointed out mediation is used every day in all walks of life to prevent outstanding legal matters from ending up in court.
The Coventry Observer’s Save Our City campaign has called for pressure on ALL sides in a multi-party dispute to work towards a fair deal for Coventry City Football Club, on a stadium and an academy.
We have today contacted Mr Heaton-Harris and have asked one of the fans’ group The Sky Blue Trust – which is in dispute and has for five years sought a fans’ takeover of the club without a clear plan to achieve it – whether it will be taking part in the mediation process.
- Coventry rugby club chairman Jon Sharp today released at statement on Coventry rugby club’s website which states: “We at Coventry Rugby, and I’m sure, all true sports fans in the City would like to see an end to the crippling saga surrounding our sister club CCFC, from which sorry mess there will emerge no winners. We have been asked and have agreed to mediate in this matter. What assistance we can give is, however, limited and revolves around CCFC playing here.”
- It adds of their Butts expansion plans: “We have a working party that is examining a variety of options to do so (including obtaining funding for this significant plan) and we are in discussions with a number of parties regarding how to achieve this. The City Council and the RFU have been involved in those discussions and the City Council in particular have expressed themselves most supportive.”One of the several options at the study stage is having the Sky Blues as tenants here. “.. CRL would retain control and ownership of the site through BPAL; we prefer a stadium of not more than 12,000 capacity. Also, as I have already stated elsewhere, we will not deal with SISU.”
- Full statement on the rugby club’s website.