COVENTRY City Football Club is ‘not for sale’ and potential takeover hopefuls should reveal their identities and proof of funds, a fans’ group has been told.
The call for transparency over the Sky Blue Trust’s so far vague takeover proposals also came in a fractious meeting with Sky Blues chairman Tim Fisher.
He followed interim team manager and director Mark Venus in warning the campaign to oust parent company Sisu – particularly with a match boycott planned for Saturday and protests inside the stadium during matches – would only damage the club and team.
He challenged the erstwhile Trust chairman Steve Brown telling him: “This is absolutely ridiculous; you represent a company that hasn’t filed accounts for three years and has a ‘couple of thousand pounds’ at the bank and yet makes a formal offer for CCFC?
“.. For the record and it is really important – you have sent a letter to SISU to offer to take control of the club, have admitted your turnover is but a few thousand pounds, not filed accounts for three years and yet you’re trying to take over a multi-million pound turnover business?”
The exchange came in a conference call with the Supporters’ Consultative Group last Wednesday, full minutes for which were released today on the CCFC website.
Mr Fisher revealed the letter sent earlier this month to Ms Seppala on the Trust’s behalf by lawyer Michael Dyer, who is listed on Portsmouth F.C’s website as a board member and helped facilitate a fans’ takeover there.
Mr Fisher called on Mr Brown to come clean over Mr Dyer’s identity as a board member of another club, suggesting a potential conflict of interest could arise, contrary to football rules.
Mr Fisher had called on Mr Brown to present the financials for Sky Blues Supporters Initiative Ltd.
When Mr Brown answered Mr Fisher’s requests by stating ‘a couple of thousand pounds’, Mr Fisher added: “Really? How could you be sure? The Trust has not filed accounts for the last three years – which is a requirement under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. Audited or unaudited you need to show revenue accounts, balance sheet and have filed annual returns.”
He added: “Let me be crystal clear. If there is any suggestion that the Sky Blue Trust has agitated and created supporter concern in the club and therefore prejudiced the current shareholder position then you need to be very careful, especially if you have made a formal approach to take over the shareholder position.
“..Last year when Mowbray had us in the top six, nobody was saying anything! We’ve got to focus on the football, and colleagues like Mark Venus are distracted by all of this.”
Tynan Scope, CCFC corporate sales manager, told the meeting: “The political and legal environment hasn’t changed from a year ago – what has changed is that we’re bottom of the table.
“For the most part, no-one cared because we were doing well. Bottom of the table and everything is the end of the world.”
A Trust statement on its website on Friday stated: “At no point did the letter contain any offer to purchase Coventry City. The request for a meeting was to discuss a process by which that might be achieved in the future.
“Lawyers acting for Coventry City Football Club and its investors have responded that the Club is not for sale. The Trust is disappointed that the invitation to Ms Seppala for a meeting has not been accepted at this time.”
The statement added the Trust believes a supported-led acquisition ‘in the right circumstances’ was possible, and members with ‘appropriate management and professional expertise’ had been “planning for over two years, in case an opportunity should arise.”
While the Trust accepted it did not have the required substantial funds, the statement suggested pledges of funds from fans through a Community Share issue could work for Coventry City as with other clubs.
The statement concluded with the Trust accepting nothing will proceed ‘unless and until’ Sisu is willing to sell.
On Saturday the Trust issued another statement about its accounts, stating: “We confirm that the Trust (a mutual society rather than a company) accounts were submitted to the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) back in August” and had been in discussion with the Registrar to remove new audit requirements, in a bid to save money.
It added the filed accounts for the year ended January 2016 were on the Trust’s website and showed the Trust had a turnover in that year of £485 and net assets of £5629.