So now we know. Coventry City ARE going to be relegated. Even the unexpected ‘miracle’ greatest of ‘great escapes’ is now all but mathematically impossible.
We also know they HAVE won silverware at Wembley for only the second time in their history in front of 43,000 Coventry City fans, highlighting the club’s ongoing size and potential.
Frustratingly, all those of us who care about the club also now know we are about to enter yet another round of intransigent and acrimonious off-field politics – FIVE years since it started – blame games and distorted nonsense which yet again is likely to get us precisely nowhere.
Those promulgating the destructive negativity will yet again achieve only half their aim.
That is, to publicise nationally that the Sky Blues is a ‘crisis club’ – which inevitably just puts off current and prospective supporters, players, managers and potential investors.
They will likely keep on failing to achieve their end game of a takeover, by fans or anyone else – as they have done for five years.
They will go on contributing to a multi-party political and commercial dispute which has damaged and financially distressed the club.
They will go on blaming the club and its current ‘owners’ for all ills, rather than all parties and calling on all parties for a resolution.
None of it is a recipe for turning into reality the collective hope – expressed by those inspirational 1987 FA Cup winning talismen John Sillett and Keith Houchen in this newspaper among others – that somehow, just somehow, the positive energy from that magnificent Wembley win could be a turning point towards an early promotion push from League Two, with winning games putting bums back on seats.
I won’t go into all the issues I covered in my long opinion piece last October – called ‘Lies, Boycotts and Trumpification in the Coventry City dispute’ – written as a journalist who has covered the issues since the 1990s – and intensely since 2012/3 – from the boardrooms to the court rooms, council offices to Parliament. The issues covered in that article remain entirely relevant today.
I do however want to address one prevalent sentiment and campaign tactic currently being pushed to the top of the news agenda by those one-eyed anti-Sisu campaigners and campaigning newspaper editors.
It is the idea that fans should not renew season tickets – and not attend matches – until Sisu sell.
My fellow Sky Blues fans are rightly frustrated and angry about the club’s demise and of paying to watch substandard football since being top of the league last season.
If the football is poor, fans will go to fewer games. That’s their prerogative. In fact, that’s what I as a paying fan have done for many years. It is a campaign lie to pretend all those not attending games are ‘voting with their feet’ against the current owners.
But let us call out this ‘Not One Penny More until Sisu go’ idea for what it is.
It is plain bonkers.
The opposite will almost certainly be needed for a takeover. For a willing buyer and seller, VALUE will need to be added to the club – a club which has been devalued by the agenda and all sides in the dispute for too long.
And thousands of fans know it. They do not support the distress tactics. They know it won’t work. Such opinions are expressed daily – often angrily – across internet forums and social media.
They are tired of the so-called fans’ ‘leaders’ and media editors’ distorted agenda and of national scribes’ Hollywood black-and-white narrative constructed in profound ignorance of the facts and divided fans’ opinion.
Not only have these usual suspects promoted to the top of the news agenda the idea of not renewing season tickets or buying tickets for Coventry City home games until Sisu go.
Worse, they have recently talked up the prospect of it being a mechanism leading to the club going into administration, which would cost the Sky Blues a hefty and disastrous League points deduction.
Administration, some fans’ ‘leaders’ have tried to tell us, could be a way of ‘the fans’ acquiring or part-acquiring the club.
Again, it is bonkers, as most fans know. Most fans do not support it.
They know Coventry City Council-backed hopes of a takeover via administration spectacularly backfired in 2013, and cost the Sky Blues’ team a crippling 20 League points. As in 2013, the Sisu group of companies remain the secured creditors.
When called out by many fans, these so-called fans’ ‘leaders’ retreat.
The so-called fans’ ‘leaders’ insist they have never urged a boycott of season ticket sales, despite talking it up. They include the less-than-measured David Johnson of Fighting The Jimmy Hill Way, whose first act as campaign leader was to produce a tasteless witch mask of Sisu’s Joy Seppala using a certain newspaper’s copyrighted picture of her.
‘Let’s Get Rid of the Wicked Witch’ went the slogan on the mask. Only a hundred or so fans held it up at the halloween fixture. It alienated many others, including female fans.
It’s time for them, and all responsible media, to end the mixed messages and to challenge any agenda which still seeks to distress the club. The club loses, not Sisu. The club must balance the books under any owner or gamble, without commercial stadium revenues beyond a paltry £75,000 last season.
It’s time for the fans’ group Sky Blue Trust leaders – who again this week released a statement mentioning fans’ acquisition and poor season ticket sales – to come out AGAINST any economic distress tactics.
If they don’t or won’t do that, it is time for them to resign.
MEDIATION AND MULTI-PARTY SOLUTION
It’s also time – as the Coventry Observer stated in an editorial two weeks ago, for fans’ groups and responsible media to consistently and persistently call for ALL sides to talk to end the dispute with a Fair Deal for Coventry City, finally, on revenues at a stadium AND a long-term academy solution.
Imagine how many more thousands of fans would have backed such a petition and campaign if similarly promoted – which could have united not divided fans. Our ‘Save Our City’ campaign has consistently and persistently called for a multi-party resolution and Fair Deal for CCFC.
Again, if the usual suspects can’t or won’t do that either, they should step aside.
A new pan-city, pan-community centreground and intelligent joint initiative with people coming together – not a failed campaign driven by hatred, commercial self-interest and distorted propaganda – will likely be needed if we want a solution to the dispute.
If you agree, get involved. Speak up. Get organised. Don’t just tweet. Don’t cower in fear of being shot down as a ‘scab’, a ‘Sisu apologist’, or someone who is blaming ‘the fans’ – as the hollow, overused and (let’s face it) pretty pathetic campaign mantras go. Those of you who have expressed similar views to ours for years ARE fans – and your voices are being ignored by the mainstream media.
Let’s not kid anyone that Coventry City Council, who sold the Ricoh Arena to Wasps, and other parties are not still playing an active part in this dispute. Just look at council leader George Duggins’ recent words. Many don’t believe, naively, that there is never political interference by local authorities in the supposedly ‘quasi judicial’ decisions taken by a few councillors in planning committee.
Many are tired of that other ‘cart before horse’ council and campaign mantra, that Sisu must drop their legal action against the Wasps deal first, before any mediation, including the current mediation process involving Chris Heaton-Harris MP reporting to sports minister Tracey Crouch. It’s not lost on many that professional mediation on a daily basis in all walks of life exists precisely to reach an END point, of court action being dropped.
Let’s have a pan-community resolution. Let’s all make it happen.