20th Sep, 2018

Coventry City groundshare with Cov rugby at Butts Park Arena not ruled in or out after lease deal

Les Reid 19th Dec, 2016 Updated: 19th Dec, 2016

COVENTRY rugby club chairman Jon Sharp has refused to rule in or out any future groundshare at an expanded Butts Park Arena with Coventry City Football Club.

Instead, he spoke of the deal secured last week to acquire the head lease to the Butts’ land as being good news for his club, and the city of Coventry.

It means plans for an expanded multi-sports stadium could now go ahead. Without the lease transfer, he had said such redevelopment would be impossible.

In declining to say anything on-record about the Sky Blues amid turmoil at the football club with whom a potential groundshare has been discussed since last year, he told the Coventry Observer: “People ask me questions about the football club. I want to talk about Coventry rugby club.

“It’s a great opportunity for the city and the community in general.

“It’s an underused site near the city centre. I think we can do something special with it.

“I’ve no ideas about what its capacity will be. That will be driven by what we want. I’m not going to plan at the moment.”

Ultimate decisions will be made by the Coventry rugby club board. The club now has a controlling stake in a new company (Wick View Limited) which has secured the head lease from former Cov rugby player and lawyer Chris Millerchip.

Mr Sharp has the other shares in the new company.

Mr Millerchip has been opposed to a groundshare with the Sky Blues. But he now has no control over what happens at the ground.

Mr Sharp also confirmed with the Observer that no conditions had been attached to the deal to transfer the Butts head lease.

Coventry City Council owns the freehold to the site. Mr Sharp revealed neither the council or Mr Millerchip had placed any conditions on the lease.

Earlier this year, the Coventry Observer exclusively revealed a leaked council email which had proposed a block on any professional football and associated training activities taking place at the Butts as a condition of the lease transfer.

Coventry City Football Club chairman Tim Fisher alleged a ‘Sisu Out’ pitch protest by some Sky Blues’ fans in front of Sky TV cameras on Thursday was putting off the rugby club.

He has suggested Coventry rugby will not want the negative publicity and disputes currently surrounding the football club.

Disputes are ongoing between the club’s hedge fund owners Sisu, Coventry City Council, Ricoh Arena owners Wasps rugby, a local newspaper, and fans’ group leaders surrounding the Sky Blue Trust, who want ‘fans’ ownership’.

There are no clear plans as to how fans’ ownership could be achieved. And there is no sign of a credible investor in the club which lacks a stadium. There is also no sign that Sisu is willing to sell the club without an offer way above market value.

Mr Fisher also claimed the club will not be able to survive long-term at the Ricoh Arena, where their tenancy agreement with £43million indebted Wasps is due to end in 2018.

The Sky Blues say they only received £73,000 in commercial revenues from the Ricoh last year, and need much more to compete and invest in the team. The club are currently second from bottom of League One, and are seeking a new team manager.

The Sky Blues already have a base at Butts Park Arena with a ticket office and some commercial operations located there.

A council spokesperson told the Coventry Observer: “The council was required as both the freehold owner and landlord of the Butts Park Arena to consent to the assignment of the lease.   The council’s consent was not subject to any conditions.   Other than to provide consent, the council was not involved in the agreement between Coventry Rugby Properties LLP and Wick View Limited.”

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