PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE TO BE LED BY MARCUS JONES MP REGARDING COVENTRY CITY FOOTBALL CLUB ON WEDNESDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 2018.
Marcus Jones MP for Nuneaton has arranged a debate in Westminster Hall this week, regarding the continuing uncertainty about the long-term future of Coventry City’s home ground.
Although it was a relief to supporters to learn on 9th February that a 1 year extension to arrangements at the Ricoh had been agreed between CCFC and Wasps, this appears only to defer the problem.
It seems probable that next season 2018/19 will be the final year at the ground that was built for our football club, unless a satisfactory resolution can be achieved via the Court-instigated mediation process that is scheduled to conclude in just 5 weeks on 28th March.
At the instigation of the Sky Blue Trust and the Jimmy Hill Way Campaign, various other supporters’ organisations have already endorsed a Joint Statement that has been provided to Mr Jones, a copy of which which follows this article.
Other supporters’ groups are invited to add their names in support of this initiative, which will provide backing to Marcus Jones and other local MPs who are raising this major concern of supporters in Parliament, with the Minister of Sport.
The Jimmy Hill Way Campaign
Unified Statement on behalf of Coventry City Football Club Supporters’ Groups
Supporters of Coventry City Football Club (“CCFC”) were pleased and relieved to learn on 9th February 2018 that arrangements for CCFC to play at the Ricoh Arena had been extended until May 2019. However, undiminished concern remains about the long-term future accommodation of home fixtures for seasons after 2018/19.
In announcing the deal for one further year, Mr Nick Eastwood, CEO of Wasps Rugby Club (“Wasps”) who own the Ricoh Arena on a long leasehold basis, also made it clear that there would be no discussions regarding a longer term agreement while obstacles remain in the form of legal proceedings involving Wasps and CCFC.
Supporters are anxious that there is no repeat of the situation suffered in 2013 when CCFC stopped playing at the Ricoh and home fixtures were played at Northampton for 12 months, in front of very low attendances. There is no apparent viable alternative to the Ricoh within the Coventry Area for CCFC to fulfil its home fixtures. On Saturday 10th February, CCFC played Accrington Stanley in front of a reported attendance of 28,343 spectators which demonstrates that CCFC requires continued access to a stadium with considerable capacity and adequate facilities.
We are therefore calling on the following parties to find an immediate solution to enable CCFC to continue playing at the Ricoh on a long-term basis:
CCFC – which is operated by Otium Entertainment Group Limited and its parent company Sky Blues Sports & Leisure Limited;
Sisu Capital Limited and its associated company Arvo Master Fund, owners of CCFC;
Coventry City Council;
The English Football League (“EFL”).
Apart from the EFL, these parties are due to participate in a mediation process as instructed by the Court of Appeal, intended to settle a long-running legal dispute concerning the sale of the Ricoh Arena by Coventry City Council to Wasps. This mediation is scheduled to be concluded by the end of March 2018. It therefore appears that the outcome of this process will determine whether CCFC will have an opportunity to play at the Ricoh Arena for seasons commencing August 2019 and beyond.
As the authority responsible for regulation of such matters, we request that the EFL give immediate assurances to supporters of CCFC that our club will not again be removed from the city whose name it bears, whatever the outcome of the mediation and any continuing legal proceedings involving Wasps and CCFC.
We are grateful to Mr Marcus Jones, MP and other parliamentary colleagues for debating this issue on 21st February. We hope that their interest and concern will assist in bringing about a swift resolution to this deeply troubling matter for CCFC supporters.
It would be appreciated if Mr Jones would please raise the following matters for consideration and comment by either the Chair of the Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport or the Sports Minister, as appropriate:
- If the issue of where Coventry City are to play home games is not resolved within the mediation process, that the EFL and the parties to the dispute - CCFC, Sisu Capital, Wasps and Coventry City Council – may be required urgently to explain the current position to the Select Committee and indicate when and by what means the home ground issue may be resolved.
- Further, that an account may be obtained from the EFL of the way they have handled the matter of the home ground in accordance with their regulations. In particular, asking them to state, in what, if any, circumstances they might favourably consider a request to approve a home ground outside the City of Coventry in the light of their regulation 13.7 (see footnote).
- After the previous debate into the Coventry City situation held on 11th October 2016, the Sports Minister initiated an informal mediation process. May this debate be informed what, if any, progress was made in the course of those discussions?
- Future cases of crisis in the management of football clubs, such as those at Blackpool and Coventry, might be better addressed were the EFL to appoint an independent investigator for each such current case, to look into the circumstances, take evidence from all interested parties, including supporters’ organisations, and make recommendations.
EFL Regulation 13.7 states:
"In considering whether to give any consent to a permanent relocation, the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case ... and shall not grant consent unless it is reasonably satisfied that such consent:
13.7.2 would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its ground;”
The above statement has been endorsed by the official representatives of each of the following Coventry City Supporters’ Organisations:
Cov Fans Together
Fight Till the Game Is Won
Jimmy Hill Way
Preservation Sky Blues
Sky Blue Trust
Twist ‘n’ Shout Fanzine