In the same Sky interview, Fisher said that “Plan A” is and always has been for the football club to remain playing at the Ricoh. Well most of us remember a previous “Plan A” where Coventry City would be playing at its own new-build stadium and subsequently that “Plan A” would be a ground-share at Butts Park Arena with Coventry Rugby Club. I think we can conclude from Mr Fisher’s latest pronouncement and yesterday's statement on the club website, that it’s not Plan A, it’s actually the only option available to the Sky Blues; an option that has been placed under severe threat by the club owners, Sisu, in their pursuance of legal action, which could spell an end to the very existence of Coventry City, if no suitable ground is available for the team to play home games.
A suitable ground not only requires adequate facilities, it also needs to be acceptable to the EFL and to Sky Blues supporters. The experience of the move to Sixfields, when Coventry City ground-shared with Northampton Town in 2013/14, cannot be repeated. Many supporters will not tolerate a move out of the City of Coventry, even if another club was prepared to enter into a ground-share arrangement. The past record of the club’s relationships with third parties under Sisu’s tenure may make others very wary of dealing with CCFC.
If they decide to continue with legal action, Sisu have an apparent conflict of interest in this situation. On the one hand, Joy Seppala is obliged to act in the best interests of investors in the hedge-fund that she runs with Dermott Coleman. At the same time, she has an obligation to protect and further the interests of Coventry City Football Club and its supporters and not to act in a manner that is directly or indirectly harmful to the club. Continuing JR2 may be considered by Seppala to be the right course of action for Sisu’s investors, but that would be contrary to the well-being of the Sky Blues because of the threat it would pose to the Ricoh tenancy.
The only solution to this conflict of interest is to take Coventry City out of the firing line. Previous pleas from supporters’ groups to Sisu to drop the action for the sake of the club have fallen on deaf ears, so it appears likely that Seppala is determined to go on to the bitter end. Two attempts to resolve the dispute via mediation (one set in motion by Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch and the second ordered by the Court of Appeal) have both failed.
With the clock ticking on Coventry City’s future at the Ricoh and possibly on its entire existence because of JR2, it is time for Sisu to relinquish control of the Sky Blues before it is too late. We believe that is true whether JR2 is dropped or continued. Therefore, we call upon Joy Seppala to sell the club for a realistic price, to people who can achieve a brighter future for Coventry City and its supporters.
Gary Hoffman, a former Director of CCFC, and his consortium have previously made offers to takeover the club and we hope that Ms Seppala will now engage in urgent and meaningful discussions to enable this acquisition. Under new ownership, we feel optimistic that Wasps would feel disposed to extend playing arrangements at the Ricoh which they do not currently seem disposed to offer to the club. If the consequence of Sisu’s actions leaves CCFC homeless once again, the value of that asset to Seppala’s investors will be diminished massively.
At the same time, we appeal to Nick Eastwood and the other decision makers at Wasps to remember that it is the fans of Coventry City who will be the biggest losers if our football team can’t continue playing at the Ricoh. Your position regarding Sisu and not wishing to continue a relationship with the football club, while they are involved, is understandable. Whilst hoping to be proved wrong, it seems to us that Sisu care little for the interests of the club and its supporters, so by depriving the club of a home you will only hurt the fans and those employed by the club, not your real enemy.
We must be hopeful that following today’s announcement, Joy Seppala will now recognise that JR2 is a lost cause and will bring this matter to a conclusion, for the sake of our club. If she continues with litigation, the prospects right now seem very bleak for Coventry City Football Club. In fact, it is entirely possible that the only real beneficiaries, whenever this litigation is finally at an end, will be the highly-paid lawyers representing all parties. It seems that for them, Sisu are the gift that keeps on giving.
The Jimmy Hill Way Campaign