PRIVATE negotiations between Coventry City and Ricoh Arena owners Wasps are taking place – and tomorrow’s crucial English Football League meeting where the club could have been expelled has been postponed.
A statement on the club’s website this morning reads:
“Coventry City Football Club can confirm that the English Football League EGM and the vote on the Club’s place in the EFL, previously scheduled for Thursday 25th April, has now been postponed.
“This postponement follows significant progress by Coventry City in working to meet the EFL stadium criteria for next season.
“We have worked closely with Shaun Harvey and the EFL over a long period of time on this matter, and are grateful to the EFL Board for giving us the extra time needed to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion, which would see Coventry City continue to play its fixtures in Coventry.
“We can confirm that Coventry City Football Club has started initial discussions with Wasps Holdings Limited regarding an extension to our current license agreement to play at the Ricoh Arena.
“We can also confirm that a Heads of Terms agreement has been signed to groundshare at an alternative venue. However, the timescales involved with this option means that a deal with Wasps will need to be concluded very quickly, otherwise our option with the alternative venue will be lost.
“We are unable to comment further at this time due to a mutually-signed confidentiality agreements, but will keep supporters updated when we are able to do so.
“We want to conclude this matter as soon as possible, with the continued aim of Coventry City playing at the Ricoh Arena, and will work extremely hard in the next few days to that end.”
The EFL said on its website:
“A planned Extraordinary General Meeting for Thursday 25 April to consider the future of Coventry City has been postponed, with a revised date set for Wednesday 29 May.
“The EFL Board had set tomorrow’s date to consider the Club’s expulsion from the League if an agreeable solution as to where they will play their home fixtures from 2019/20 onwards could not be provided.
“The EFL has been in regular contact with the Club over an extended period and, over the course of the last seven days, significant progress has been made with a solution believed to have been identified.
“To allow the Club the maximum period of time to finalise appropriate arrangements, the EFL Board has opted to postpone Thursday’s EGM and remains hopeful such a meeting will not be required.”
It follows the Supreme Court decision last week not to grant a Judicial Review. sought by companies related to the football club’s owners Sisu, of Coventry City Council’s deal to sell the stadium to the then London Wasps in 2014 on a 250-year deal not offered to the Sky Blues amid a protracted dispute.
Wasps and council leaders had refused to talk about extending the club’s tenancy after it expires this season – unless the legal action was dropped as a pre-condition to talks. Wasps had previously extended it for one year for this season.
Sisu had said it was willing to end the litigation against the council – which sought £28million compensation paid by the already indebted Wasps to the council – in return for a “commercially acceptable” interim deal to remain at the Ricoh, and active support from the council towards building a new stadium.
The football club has consistently said it is deprived of crucial stadium revenues to support the team – not only from 24/7 activities but even on City’s own matchdays, when much of the commercial revenue goes to Wasps.
Wasps are £55million in debt and must pay £35million back to bondholders in 2022.
The Coventry Observer revealed earlier this month that one site eyed up for a new stadium is the former Woodlands Academy site, for which talks between council officials and the club’s agents have been slow.