My Grandad used to take my Mum, brother & I to see Coventry back in the 90's at Highfield Road. It was always incredible to walk up from the stairs into the arena. It's heartbreaking to see the club fallen into such an impossible situation, surely one of football's greatest tragedies.
The club now has until March 5th to say where it will play its home games - or it could be expelled from the League by April 25.
Coventry City's financial situation means that it no longer owned the stadium & must pay rent to use it. Coventry City Council sold their share to Wasps without consultation. Sisu are seeking damages from Wasps as a result of this & that they saved the club from bankruptcy. Sisu-related companies wanted the rugby club to pay almost £30million extra as they took Coventry Council to Court to argue over the sale of the stadium in 2014.
The Wasps moved to Coventry in 2014, buying the Higgs Charity's shares in the Ricoh before becoming outright owners. Having made their own efforts to secure ownership of the stadium, Sisu were deeply unhappy about the situation & legal action regarding the sale is still rumbling on.
Estimates vary on how much money SISU have lost in Coventry – possibly £70m – but they now want £20m up front to sell the club. But then there is very little that the Coventry fans or the consortium can do to force SISU to sell. SISU have already shown that they are not averse to cutting off their nose to spite their face.
There is almost total impasse: Wasps won’t agree to negotiations until SISU stop the legal challenges, SISU keep challenging and the council have lost all faith in sitting down with such objectionable owners.
Can you blame Wasps for not letting Sisu's club play there as they are being potentially sued by them?
Supporters generally feel betrayed by the club’s owners; for many people the City Council have their share of the blame; former Directors certainly have much to answer for; and the Football League has failed us totally by not acting to regulate properly in this matter,
Fans who had shares in the club were asked to give their shares to SISU to help the club survive!
But leading councillors say it is the club's owners Sisu that have the power to end the legal action over the controversial sale of the Ricoh Arena. Wasps have again repeated that they will not enter into discussions for Coventry City to play at the Ricoh until legal action ends.
The Sky Blue Trust fans' group has urged Sisu to "avert this rapidly approaching disaster" and end the legal action - and also sell the club.
The Westminster meeting in early March called by the Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport, inviting all of the key parties is an opportunity to resolve this issue.
1898 Singers change name to Coventry City FC, playing at Highfield Road.
1961 - Jimmy Hill as manager sparked the revolution at the club.
1967 - Coventry Promoted to First Division.
1987 - Winners of the FA CUP. Beating Spurs 3:2 after extra time.
2000 - Relegated to Championship.
2005 - Moved to Ricoh Arena
2007 - Sisu invest hoping for club promotion windfall.
2013 – The club owners, SISU, place a non-operating subsidiary of the club, which owns no financial assets and has no employee on or off the pitch, into administration. The club agrees to play future home matches at Sixfields Stadium, Northampton. Home fans mostly boycott the home games.
2014 – The club return to the Ricoh Arena.
2017 – Coventry reach Wembley for the first time in 30 years. They go on to win the final against Oxford United to lift their first trophy since 1987's FA Cup victory.
2018 – The club achieve a top-six finish for the first time since 1969–70, and are promoted via the English Football League play-offs to League One.
How did it all go wrong!
Just over 10 years ago, in December 2007, 90% of Coventry City was sold to SISU Capital, a hedge fund to save it from bankruptcy. And in the opinion of many, what followed is some of the worst mismanagement & blind belligerence in English football this century.
Coventry CIty then badly invested in all kinds of silly company ideas, But the majority of the other investments went the same way as the football club & resulted in the loss of tens of millions of pounds. So when Coventry City needed the investment to help to push them into the Premier League, SISU were unwilling, or unable, to fund the purchase of quality players identified by management. In December 2010 Aidy Boothroyd’s team were fifth in the Championship, SISU were advised that with smart investment they could push for promotion. But SISU said no, they would be tightening belts instead. Boothroyd was sacked in March 2011, the core of the team left that summer and the team was relegated into League One the next season.
As one former senior club figure puts it, “trying to negotiate with SISU is like trying to have a constructive argument with a drunk in a bar.” The company that ran the Ricoh Arena was joint-owned between Coventry Council & the Alan Higgs trust, but there was a plan in place for SISU to buy half of it then eventually do a deal for the rest of the shares. But instead SISU apparently tried to play the council & the Higgs trust off against each other, withholding rent & taking the stadium company to court. Even though the club had an offer from a fan to pay the rent at the Ricoh for them, which they turned down. This has led to years of court cases, Wasps rugby team taking control of the stadium & Coventry briefly moving to Northampton. The court cases are still rumbling on.
For as long as SISU stay at the club, the atmosphere at the Ricoh will never be positive again. The crowds rarely get far beyond 7,000 and according to multiple dressing room sources, the players do not enjoy playing there. For the fans, they feel if they go to see the match they are still supporting Sisu, but if they don't the tea mwill suffer.
With Sisu challenging the circumstances surrounding the sale of the Ricoh, that legal action could be their last chance to recoup their investment in Coventry City.
Fortunately for SISU, Coventry City still have an exceptional academy, which continues to produce talented youngsters. With the money from these players they can plug the trading losses: they got £3m for James Maddison in 2016,
Ultimately Coventry fans can have no real optimism for the future under the current ownership. There is a consortium of fans keen to buy it off them. The consortium have submitted four offers to SISU, the most recent in November, for an initial £7m potentially rising as high as £20m, but with no success. “We are a rock solid consortium of local businessmen who are life-long fans,”
If the home of the first team is still in serious question, the future of Coventry City’s academy is at least secure. A deal to stay at the Alan Higgs centre in the city until 2023 has been agreed, and there is some budget for the improvements necessary to retain Category 2 status. When all else failed, the work of Stevens and his staff was the financial lifeblood of this club.
Coventry are achieving in spite of their owners, but they are at least finally achieving. SISU deserve no praise, not given the calamity of the last 11 years. But we have at least witnessed the power of unity in the face of despair. A team mostly of Coventry youngsters. There is a bond between supporters and manager, manager and players and academy and first team that has only been strengthened by adversity. Coventry City are proof that football clubs are damn resilient, fuelled by loyalty, duty & love when more tangible materials have run dry.
Legends! (in no particular order)
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