INDEBTED Wasps are planning to cut jobs at the Ricoh Arena amid £55million group debts – in the wake of tenants Coventry City being locked out, we can reveal.
The Coventry Observer has learned of proposals announced to staff to restructure the Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) business.
The stadium management firm has been part of the Wasps group of companies since it was controversially sold five years ago to then London Wasps by Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity.
An internet rumour emerged of problems paying wages.
Sources categorically deny off-record any suggestion that staff and players were not paid on Friday, for the end of June.
We received the following response in a statement…
“Stuart Cain, Managing Director of Ricoh Arena, said: “It’s nearly five years since Wasps moved to the Ricoh Arena so, like all businesses, we’ve reviewed our progress and looked at what we need to do over the next five years.
“To keep investing in the venue and the playing squads we need to drive revenue and increase efficiencies.
“This means some things will change moving forward.
“We have kept staff informed and are currently talking to the small number of those potentially affected.”
We have asked for clarification on how many staff could be affected and how, amid an internal consultation period.
We also asked about unconfirmed rumours that directors Nick Eastwood and Jacqui Isaac were moving to a three-day week.
A Wasps/ACL spokesman declined to respond to those rumours, and added: “We would not give any details about individuals who may be potentially affected.”
The Wasps group debts include £35million which is due to be paid back to bondholders in 2022.
Coventry City personnel have publicly estimated Wasps could lose up to £2million a year from losing the football club the stadium was built for. It includes £100,000 rent, matchday revenues that went to Wasps, and spending from fans’ footfall.
ACL has seen increased annual revenues but also rising costs since Wasps’ arrival.
The latest available ACL accounts for the year up to June 2018 recorded an operating loss of £1.6million.
An accompanying directors’ statement in the accounts says: “Turnover decreased to £9.2million.. and costs of sales and administration expenditure increased to £10.9million.. resulting in an operating loss before exceptional items of £1.6million.”
Coventry City and Sisu have maintained that they desperately wanted to remain at the Ricoh Arena, but will be now play 2019/20 home games at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground, to the outrage of many Coventry City fans.
Wasps, supported by Coventry City Council, spent last season threatening to lock out Coventry City at the season’s end – unless its owners Sisu dropped legal action against the council’s deal to sell the stadium in 2014.
Talks over Coventry City staying at the Ricoh finally took place from April when the Supreme Court rejected the Sisu group of companies’ case that the deal was an unlawful ‘state aid’ use of taxpayers’ money under European laws. Sisu had maintained in court that Wasps should pay back £28million to the council.
But the talks ultimately collapsed, with Sisu claiming Wasps were insisting that Coventry City and Sisu must underwrite any future potential damages and losses for Wasps – including any losses flowing from Sisu’s Complaint to the European Commission about the stadium deal.
Such a condition is undeliverable, could bankrupt Coventry City and would remove their basic legal rights, Sisu claims.