COVENTRY City Football Club are calling for multi-party talks in a bid to keep their ‘lifeblood’ youth academy at the Alan Higgs Centre if Wasps move in.
But the club insist the talks should include the F.A, the Football League and Sport England – and must focus on how to retain their prized Category 2 status academy which receives £650,000 annual funding and offers centre of excellence facilities to city youngsters and future footballing stars.
It comes as councillors this week also confirmed their backing for plans for a new 50 metre swimming pool at the centre alongside Wasps’ proposed new training centre, to be built on the football club’s existing academy facilities.
Councillors also renewed calls for discussions between CCFC and Wasps.
It follows Coventry City Council’s planning committee’s decision on August 4 that it was ‘minded to approve’ rugby club Wasps’ planning application to build a £7million training centre at CCFC’s purpose-build academy premises in Allard Way for when the football club’s lease expires next June.
The planning committee placed conditions on its approval, which included that the government does not wish to step in and make the decision itself on green belt grounds, and that Sport England’s concerns about the Category 2 academy’s future can be resolved.
If that does not happen, the committee of councillors decided the entire matter should go back to the council’s planning committee.
Governing body Sport England is a statutory consultee in the planning process and has the power to make recommendations to councils and the government over planning applications.
The football club yesterday released on their website a letter written to council planners last week – not published in the planning application material on the council’s website – which called for the multi-party talks.
The club had also previously written to planners at the end of last month – in another letter then published on the CCFC website – to state Coventry City Council should also be included in the talks alongside Sport England and CSF.
The Coventry Observer’s Save Our City campaign is calling on the council, the Higgs centre’s operators the Coventry Sports Foundation and all parties to ensure the 133-year-old football club’s Category 2 academy is retained in the city.
The CCFC website statement yesterday says: “We hope that all parties can work together to ensure that all necessary information can be produced and any issues arising can be discussed to enable Sport England to take a position on the application.
“We have written to the Council to say that we would be extremely happy to cooperate fully with all relevant parties to ensure that Sport England has all necessary information about the football academy and its Category 2 status.
“We have previously provided this information to Coventry Sport Foundation (CSF) but we are more than happy to sit down with all parties and discuss how the facilities at the Alan Higgs Centre can be programmed in order to allow Wasps to develop its training academy without displacing the football academy or threatening its Category 2 status.”
It states the club was ‘pleased’ to note CSF chief executive Paul Breed had written to Wasps urging further dialogue and adds: “So it seems that everyone is now in agreement that this important process should indeed proceed.
“We are pleased to say that both the FA and the Football League are lending their full support to this process and have confirmed their intent in taking part in the discussions.”