COUNCIL leader Ann Lucas has called on the Sky Blues to re-build relationships with the council and Ricoh stadium owners Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) after a judge ruled the use of taxpayers money bailout ACL with a £14.4million loan was lawful.
A three-day judicial hearing took place earlier this month at Birmingham’s High Court during which the club claimed the council acted unlawfully when the deal was agreed with Yorkshire Bank back in January 2013.
Throughout the three-day hearing both sides gave their arguments which was backed up by large amounts of evidence.
And this week (Monday), after reserving judgement at the end of the three-day hearing, Mr Justice Hickinbottom announced the council had successfully defended the claim.
Council leader, Ann Lucas, welcomed the decision and urged Sisu to abandon any further action and instead focus on finding a ‘realistic’ way of bringing the Sky Blues back to the Ricoh.
She said: “We were always confident we could robustly defend our unanimous and cross party decision by all councillors at Full Council in January 2013 to support the new loan arrangement to ACL.
“We have taken no pleasure in finding ourselves in court defending our decision and in having to spend council taxpayers’ money defending a legal challenge from SISU.
“Our door remains open – to the football club, to anyone who wants to talk to us about the future of the Ricoh Arena.
“We will always listen, and make our choices based on what’s best for the city, not on what works for the interests of one group.
“We continue to urge Joy Seppala to consider a return to the Ricoh so that thousands of Sky Blues fans can see their team again at home and the relationship between the club and ACL can be rebuilt.
“If Joy does not want – even now – to return the club to its rightful home back here at the Ricoh we would encourage the Football League to use its powers to ensure a rapid return to Coventry for the sake of thousands of Sky Blues fans.”
In a statement Sisu have described the judgement as ‘unfortunate’ and the club have confirmed they will apply to appeal the decision.
Club statement: “The club and its owners believe that the loan, which exceeded the value of the stadium by almost 200%, was neither lawful nor in the interests of the supporters, taxpayers, stadium operators or the club.
“ACL will now remain burdened with debt for the next 43 years, removing any prospect of a long term return to the stadium by the club.
“With this level of debt there is no realistic prospect of any sports franchise or ACL being able to generate sufficient revenue to be commercially viable.
“Now, more than ever, the new stadium is the only viable commercial option. The owner’s primary objective remains building a long term sound financial platform for the future growth of the club.”
Judge Hickinbottom has yet to award costs as a result of the hearing. A decision on costs is expected on 4 July.