COVENTRY City and the public have been ‘deliberately misled’ over the future of their crucial youth academy, its managing director Chris Anderson said this evening.
He was responding to media interviews today by Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen of the Higgs charity in relation to the Alan Higgs Centre – where the academy is currently based.
He revealed the Higgs charity had insisted on inserting a clause in the transfer of the centre’s ownership to the Coventry and Warwickshire Award Trust (CAWAT) in March this year, which appears to prevent any long-term use by the football club.
Mr Knatchbull-Hugessen pointed to the clause which blocks any sale or lease beyond seven years to any organisation or individual who had taken legal action against the Higgs charity since 2011.
That would appear to prevent Mr Anderson’s proposal this week that CCFC could move its training facilities into the centre as part of his proposal to retain the academy after a sub-lease expires next June.
It comes amid claim and counter-claim concerning the academy’s future, and rugby club Wasps submitting a planning application to Coventry City Council last month to move its new training facilities into the centre, where there are also council-backed plans for a 50-metre swimming pool.
The Coventry Observer yesterday launched our ‘Save Our City’ campaign, which calls for the academy to be retained in Coventry and a fairer stadium deal for the football club. The fans’ group Sky Blue Trust has also launched a Save Our Academy campaign.
We also revealed yesterday that leaked emails from the centre’s operators, the Coventry Sports Foundation, prove the club had sought to extend their lease beyond June next year, and that in both April this year and this Sunday, CSF chief executive Paul Breed re-iterated the current academy arrangements at the Higgs location would have to expire at that time.
In a statement released to us this evening, Mr Anderson said: “Coventry City FC are disappointed to learn of the actions of the Alan Higgs Trust.
“The club was not aware that a clause which would block Coventry City FC from long-term residency past 2017 at the Alan Higgs Centre existed – a clause which puts the Academy’s future under threat.
“As previously stated, the club have been residents at the Alan Higgs Centre for over a decade where we have paid high-value rent to produce football players from the Coventry and Warwickshire area.
“As is well known, we have repeatedly attempted to engage with Coventry Sports Foundation over a long-term deal at the Alan Higgs Centre, and this clause was never made known to us.
“In fact, Coventry Sports Foundation publicly stated on May 19th, 2016 that ‘the door is still open’ for the club at the centre. Similarly, Wasps said only yesterday that they are ‘willing to have talks about keeping both football and rugby at the Higgs Centre site.’
“In light of recent developments, it now appears obvious that the door was never open to a long-term agreement and keeping both football and rugby at the centre not a sincere offer.
“Both statements appear to have been designed to mislead the public about the true plans that have been made for the Higgs Centre for some time. We can only question why this clause was kept from us when it appears that everyone else involved has known about it. Had we known about it, it would have put the club in a better position to plan for a potential departure from the Alan Higgs Centre; but once again, we feel deliberately misled.
“Whilst there is hostility towards the club’s owners from the trust, it is deeply regrettable that they feel the need to take it out on the football club’s youth and put the Academy’s future under threat.”
More to come.