COVENTRY City fans’ group ‘leaders’ have outlined controversial potential plans for a club takeover through another points-deducting administration process – after a predicted fall in season ticket sales this summer.
The possible outcome was mooted by David Johnson, leader of the ‘Fighting the Jimmy Hill Way’ campaign ahead of a public meeting at the Albany Club, Earlsdon, Coventry, last night, attended by around 100 fans.
Social media and internet reaction among fans late last night was characteristically divided over the proposal. Some fans on forum Sky Blues Talk effectively accused the takeover plotters of talking up the prospect of administration to achieve their agenda.
Coventry City were deducted a total of 20 league points by the football authorities due to administration in 2013 – after a dispute with then Ricoh Arena owners Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity over stadium, rent, revenues and ownership. A takeover plot via that administration failed and was backed by some leading figures at the fans’ group Sky Blue Trust.
Any prospective party seeking to facilitate a takeover of any company by promoting the distress of that company – directly or indirectly – could be open to legal action.
The campaign’s supporters insisted last night there was no campaign call for a season ticket boycott. Rather, the campaign was “preparing” for a potential “acquisition” of the club after the expected drop in season ticket sales following a so-far disastrous season, with Coventry City bottom of League One.
Mr Johnson, who has been involved in campaigning alongside Sky Blue Trust leaders for years, told BBC Coventry and Warwickshire’s Jo Tidman: “For City fans, it’s not about launching a takeover bid tonight. It’s starting to get to a state of readiness where, in one of two situations, we could get involved in an acquisition of the club.
“The first situation is that Sisu decide they will put the club up for sale at a realistic price. At the moment, the answer is ‘No’ (from Sisu).
“But the other scenario is that we get to the summer, we get relegated, probably on current form, and season ticket holders in their droves say that they are not going to renew.
“That happens, and quite possibly the club ends up in administration.
“There’s two possible scenarios there where fans can get involved in an acquisition. If we don’t do the preparatory work and we’re not in a state of readiness for either of those two situations, we won’t be able to get involved.
“Now I don’t think fans on their own, say if you had a couple of thousand City fans raising a couple of million pounds, that’s not going to be enough. It would need to be as part of a consortium with wealthy supporters or backers.”
No such potentially credible investor has openly emerged. Sisu have not responded to the campaign call to put the club up for sale, although they had previously said any business has its price.
The majority of fans have not joined in the campaign’s match boycotts, although average home gates are down by around 4,000 to 8,000 compared with when the Sky Blues were top of League One a year ago – under the same owners, without revenues from a stadium.
Jan Mokrycki, of the Sky Blue Trust, told BBC Coventry and Warwickshire’s Phil Upton yesterday revenue would be boosted by extra “bums on seats” after a takeover involving supporters, in which fans felt they would have a stake in the club.
Asked by Mr Upton what the Trust would do if they were handed the keys to the club tomorrow – gamble by overspending again on players or balance the books as the club is doing under parent company Sisu – he admitted: “Yes, I think the club is balancing the books and that’s not a bad thing at all.. We’d show some ambition which is what they’re not doing.”
Asked if a real problem was that the club lacks revenues from a stadium, he said Coventry City chairman Tim Fisher was presenting a ‘red herring” about income from “pies” sold at matches.
Fomerly London and High Wycombe-based rugby club Wasps – who now own the Ricoh Arena rented by Coventry City – gain 24/7 revenues from conferences, a hotel, concerts, corporate catering, stadium sponsorship and potentially naming rights, but are £43million in debt with rising annual losses due to rising costs – while they are succeeding on the pitch.
Mr Mokrycki rebutted Mr Upton’s questioning which suggested “bad press” from the ‘Sisu Out’ campaign by some fans’ group leaders was contributing to damage to the club.
It comes after Coventry rugby club chairman Jon Sharp said it could not ‘deal with Sisu’ over a potential groundshare at the Butts Park Arena due to “anti Sisu sentiment in the city” – although the two clubs continue to have working relationships with a limited commercial Joint Venture.