PROMINENT Coventry City fans are appealing for unity behind the team after leading figures at the supporters’ group the Sky Blue Trust accepted some of its ‘Sisu Out’ campaign messages were personal views rather than on members’ behalf.
Leading Trust members were under fire at a meeting of the separate Supporters’ Consultative Group (SCG) concerning the Trust’s recent public statements and press articles.
A long-running campaign by some to oust the club’s hedge fund owners Sisu – which failed after the indebted club entered administration in 2013 costing the team 20 League points – has been unsuccessful, and the club’s home Ricoh Arena stadium was sold by Coventry City Council and Alan Edward Higgs Charity to Premiership rugby’s similarly indebted London Wasps Holdings Limited.
Sky Blue Trust leaders, who claim to represent nearly 3,000 fans, have this year issued public statements pronouncing a more overt ‘time to go Sisu’ agenda.
The Trust claimed 600 members had also responded this year to its leading survey question which asked whether Sisu or the board should go.
Other fans including some SCG members claim the failed agenda has contributed to destabilising the club and was continuing to threaten its future, with no clear club buyer or Trust-sought ‘fans’ ownership’ on the horizon, or willingness for Sisu to sell.
SCG members were among 25 professionals and prominent fans who have written to communities secretary Eric Pickles and the council calling for an independent inquiry into the secretive sale of the football club’s home to the London Wasps firm on a 250-year lease, with nearly £14million of taxpayers’ money tied up in it.
The Sky Blue Trust’s erstwhile media spokesman Jan Mokrzycki and chairman Steve Brown faced questions from SCG members and CCFC’s chairman Tim Fisher at this month’s SCG meeting, minutes for whch were published on the club’s website this week.
They record Mr Brown accepted it was confusing if Trust statements failed to “differentiate between a Trust’s board member’s personal view and the Trust’s official stated position”.
The minutes also record Mr Fisher asked Mr Mokrzycki why in a press article he had made a false claim that Sisu was taking £1million a year in interest charges out of the club.
Mr Mokrzycki said he “wasn’t aware or couldn’t remember making such a statement” and that he would have “voiced his own personal opinion, and not that of the Sky Blue Trust”.
He said he was no longer a Trust board member, although he continued to be a member.
Mr Fisher asked Mr Brown as Trust chairman to explain why the Trust, reacting to the departure of former team manager Steven Pressley, thought it necessary to air the view that “it’s time for Sisu to go”.
Mr Brown, pointing to the Trust’s survey in January, said it was “the view of most fans”. SCG chairman Peter Ward replied this was “a flawed assumption”.
Mr Brown said he was not aware the statement had been posted on the Trust’s website.
The minutes record Mr Brown added he is “not personally responsible for comments on the SBT website and these comments represent the collective view of the Trust Board.”
The minutes also record he accepted that with nearly 3000 members “it is sometimes difficult to reach a singular representative view.”
Another leading Trust figure during much of the long-running dispute between CCFC, the council and charity over Ricoh stadium ownership, revenues and rent was former Labour council leader John Fletcher.
Mr Ward told the Coventry Observer: “As chair of the SCG, whoever owns Coventry City Football Club, this is time for fans to rally behind the team and the football club and for giving undivided support.
“Unfortunately, there are too many who are too confrontational and want to cause trouble and disruption.”
Other SCG members share that view.
In statement released last week the Sky Blue Trust said: “Mr Ward claimed, at the recent SCG meeting, that the Trust membership’s vote to ask the Club’s current owners to put their interest up for sale, does not reflect the views of Coventry City fans generally. “We have never claimed that it does but we do believe the results of our survey accurately reflect the views of our almost 3000 members – the only group of people that the Trust claims to represent.”The Trust added: “The Trust wishes to make it clear that the widespread antipathy towards SISU has no bearing on City fans’ passionate desire to see the team succeed on the pitch.“It is time for a change and if Mr Ward believes that a majority of supporters disa-gree with that view, perhaps he would care to provide tangible evidence in support of his assertions or have the grace to with-draw his comments.”