5th Dec, 2016

Sky Blues identify new stadium site in Coventry and call for council help

Les Reid 11th Nov, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE Sky Blues have identified a site for a new stadium in Coventry – and want support from the council and Ricoh owners Wasps.

Coventry City’s new managing director Chris Anderson insisted talk of a new stadium was entirely genuine.

He said: “Progress has been made on identifying a site in Coventry – which Football League officials have inspected.”

He declined to identify the site, or say anything more – for “commercial reasons”. But he added: “It is not just smoke and mirrors. There is a site.”

The club has for two years said it was searching for a new stadium site in “the Coventry area”. But this is the first definitive claim a site is being advanced inside the city’s boundaries, which many fans have argued is necessary.

Mr Anderson is emphasising all options remain on the table, including a deal with rugby club Wasps to stay at the Ricoh as tenants.

Negotiations with Wasps are imminent over extending the current rent deal, which deprives the football club of maximising crucial commercial stadium revenues to support the team.

In an interview with the Coventry Observer, Mr Anderson said: “It would be irresponsible not to consider all options, staying at the Ricoh or our own stadium.

“We owe it to the club. We are after making the best decisions for the football club.

“People understand we’re under severe financial constraints. We are not competing on a level playing field against other teams in our division and other divisions who do own their own stadium.

“We are fighting with one hand behind our backs and it’s not fair.

“Fairness is a moral concern and there are also severe commercial implications. We are in a bind because of historic events. We need to find a way out of that bind.

“We don’t make announcements and decisions individually. We need to co-operate with everybody in the community – our supporters to come to the games, our partners at the Ricoh to have a viable model, and the support and goodwill of public authorities.

“We are asking for their help.

“We need to earn trust and get that co-operation. We need to repair a relationship.”

It is now just over a year since Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity agreed in private to sell Sky Blues’ Ricoh Arena home to Wasps on a 250-year lease deal not offered to the football club, following a long-running bitter legal dispute over stadium rent, revenues and ownership.

It has emerged Wasps – who have transferred £35million of debt to retail bond holders in a scheme first exclusively revealed by the Observer – are yet to secure a multi-million pound deal over Ricoh Arena naming rights, previously expected this summer.

Wasps are also saddled with annual interest payments of over £2million amid ongoing losses, while their gates are currently around 10,000.

It is believed any party interested in the naming rights such as Jaguar Land Rover may first want an indication as to the Sky Blues’ long-term intentions.

Wasps last week publicly expressed their desire to secure a deal with Coventry City as tenants, possibly way beyond the option of extending the current £100,000 per year rental agreement for another two years.

The Coventry Observer understands the club would prefer as short a temporary Ricoh deal as possible, while advancing plans for the new stadium and commercial opportunities, including non-matchday events.

The new stadium could first have capacity of 12,000 to 15,000, but could be extended to beyond 20,000 capacity if the club’s ambitions of winning promotions are realised.