4th Jul, 2022

Coventry City face expulsion from league if home ground not confirmed in two months

Editorial Correspondent 22nd Feb, 2019 Updated: 22nd Feb, 2019

COVENTRY City Football Club (CCFC) has been issued a deadline to confirm where they will play next season or they face expulsion from the league.

The club received a formal letter from the English Football League board with a final request for clarity regarding where they will play home matches in the 2019/20 season.

The letter states the club has until Tuesday March 5 to provide clarity on where it will play.

Sky Blues chiefs have repeatedly insisted the club’s only option is to continue playing at its home ground, the Ricoh Arena.

The club’s one year lease at the stadium runs out this summer.

Wasps Rugby Club, which has a 250-year lease on the Ricoh, is refusing to discuss extending the football club’s tenancy unless CCFC owner Sisu drops all court appeals against Coventry City Council’s decision to sell the stadium to Wasps in 2014.

Should a solution not be found over the next two months, an Extraordinary General Meeting of EFL clubs will be convened to consider Coventry City’s expulsion.

This meeting would be held on Thursday April 25.

EFL chiefs say this is to provide clarity regarding Coventry City’s future membership in advance of relegation and promotion issues being resolved during the run-in to the end of the season.

A Sky Blues spokesperson said: “Following receipt of the letter, we felt it was important to make Sky Blues fans and the wider community aware of this letter and the dates outlined in it.

“These dates show how stark the situation facing the Football Club now is and that time is running out.

“Our only option is to continue to play at our home, the Ricoh Arena.

“Coventry City Football Club wants to do a deal with Wasps Rugby Club as soon as possible, to resolve this impasse so that the dates above are not encountered.

“All parties now need to work together for the good of Coventry City Football Club, its supporters, the Ricoh Arena, the City of Coventry and our community. The continued future of the Football Club needs to be everyone’s focus to prevent more heartache and worry.

“No one should be in any doubt of the significance of Coventry City to Coventry – not in the past, now or in the future.

“The Westminster meeting in early March called by the Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport, inviting all of the key parties, is an opportunity to resolve this issue.

“However, our offers to meet with both Coventry City Council, as freehold owner and the democratically elected local authority, and Wasps RFC, as landlord, still remain open – in the hope that a deal can be agreed before the Westminster meeting is necessary.”

This meeting follows nine out of ten Coventry City fans’ groups calling on all sides – including the Sisu, Wasps and the council, to agree a Ricoh deal urgently.

A statement from EFL bosses reads: “In previous correspondence, the board has been very clear about the need for Coventry City to provide absolute confirmation early in the second half of the current season.

“The club will still be given every opportunity to develop and present an appropriate resolution throughout the process, but the EFL is yet to receive any indication of where Coventry City intend to play next season.

“The EFL considers it untenable for a member club to seek to continue competing in its league competition if it is unable to stage its home matches.

“However, it understands that, despite the complex challenges facing Coventry City at this current time, it is the club’s preference to extend their stay at the Ricoh Arena for future seasons and the EFL would view this as a sensible and suitable solution to the matter.”

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “The matter of Coventry City’s efforts to secure a home venue for 2019/20 season and beyond has been a serious concern for all parties for a significant period of time and the objective of the EFL, as it has always been, is to secure an appropriate solution for the long-term future of the Club as they are a much valued member of our competition.

“The course of action taken this week is with reluctance, but the League has to ensure the integrity of our competitions is maintained and all Clubs meet the obligations that come with being a member of the EFL.

“We remain in regular dialogue with the club and will provide all practical available assistance in line with EFL Regulations.”

Nick Eastwood, Chief Executive of the Wasps Group, said: “We have been clear and consistent about our message to the owners of Coventry City Football Club.

“When we agreed a one-year extension for them to play at the Ricoh Arena we said we would only open negotiations again once they had permanently halted their legal action.

“We hope they take that course of action as the EFL have also made their position clear. It is in the owners’ gift to resolve this issue for the benefit of all, especially their own supporters.”

A joint statement from Coventry City Council leader Councillor George Duggins and Coun Allan Andrews, acting leader of the opposition Conservative group, says: “Coventry City Council has been clear in its message for more than two years now – we are willing to talk to the football club once the legal process has ended.

“The football club keeps saying it wants to meet with us but what would the purpose of the meeting be?

“If it is to come and tell us what the football club means to the people of this city then we are already well aware of that.

“If it is to say that they do not have the power to stop the legal process then what is the point of the meeting?

“What is noticeable from the football club’s statement following the EFL’s announcement today is the complete lack of any mention of their owners or their role in this.

“The club seems to think that everyone apart from Sisu has a responsibility for the future of the football club, yet we all know it has always been in their gift to end this.

“We suggest that rather than coming to meet us, the football club lobbies Sisu to take responsibility and end this long and drawn out process so we can all move on.”

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