COVENTRY City’s future as a league club is ‘severely at risk’ if there is no Ricoh Arena deal with Wasps for next season, says the football club’s boss.
In Sky Blues’ chief executive Dave Boddy’s strongest warning yet, he says the club has nowhere else to play and there is no prospect of another temporary groundshare outside the city, after 2013/4’s temporary move to Northampton for home matches.
The current tenancy deal at the Ricoh expires at the end of this season.
Wasps last year extended it by one season, after previously repeatedly stating publicly there would be no such deal unless Sky Blues’ owners Sisu dropped their legal action, which concerns Coventry council’s Ricoh Arena sale to Wasps in 2014.
The Sky Blues say Wasps are once again refusing to come to the table to negotiate a deal.
In October, London-based hedge fund Sisu lost another appeal in the High Court. Sky Blues companies were listed among those taking the action.
Sisu and related companies have until this week to decide whether to seek another appeal, this time in the Supreme Court, and other types of civil legal action have not been ruled out.
Coventry City chief executive Dave Boddy wrote in his programme notes for Friday night’s home game versus Peterborough United:
“The topic at the forefront of everyone’s mind is still the future of the club at the Ricoh Arena.
“The football club’s intention is to play at the Ricoh Arena, and commit to a deal beyond this season. That is our focus and aim, and I know it is something all fans and fan groups are supportive of.
“As I write these notes, we await the decision of the club’s owners regarding the court case and if they will choose to appeal the most recent judgement.
“To reiterate, the club, its senior management and its staff have no involvement, knowledge or say in this legal process and if it continues or not.
“Sisu has total control of the legal process, instructions to their legal counsel and Sisu cover all legal costs. As chief executive, alongside the chairman (Tim Fisher), we are making representations on the stadium issue and legal position directly with the shareholders at board level through Otium Entertainment and Sky Blue Sports & Leisure.
“There unfortunately have been no negotiations to date with Wasps but I have met with several Wasps directors, who have told me the position of Wasps regarding the court case with the owners.
“I have made clear that the football club is not involved in the legal proceedings, and our desire to stay at the Ricoh Arena and create a stronger relationship between the two organisations. This is something which has improved in the last 18 months, despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our day-to-day working relationship is excellent.
“Coventry City Football Club comes first above everything else, I’m sure you will agree. It is imperative that a deal is agreed and that we stay at the Ricoh Arena. The EFL (English Football League) have made very clear in writing to us that a groundshare outside of Coventry is not and will not be an option– even if it was, it is not an option we are interested in. We want to stay at the Ricoh Arena.
“For the avoidance of doubt to everyone in Coventry and Warwickshire who cares about the football club, failure to reach agreement to play at the Ricoh next season will mean that the club’s place in the English Football League is severely at risk.
“We know the value that we bring to the stadium and Wasps, which is a vital part of their revenue streams – not just in terms of rent, but matchday revenue and footfall we bring to the stadium, as well as significant contributions to stadium costs such as pitch maintenance and pitch lighting.
“But more importantly we know the value the club brings to the community. As I have said before, we saw this during May with the Play-Off win and thousands at Wembley, followed by the 50,000 on the streets for the bus parade and what this club means to the community.
“Whether an appeal takes place or not, I truly believe that everyone – Sisu, Wasps, Coventry City Council, MPs or anyone – wants to see Coventry City Football Club to continue, and to continue to play at the Ricoh Arena.
“As we showed when we agreed the current deal – where there is a will, there can be a way.”