I have concentrated on the matters relative to impending homelessness of the Sky Blues. On and off the field the Sisu era has been a largely unhappy time in many other respects. Despite the glorious end to last season, Coventry City is still only a shadow of the former Premier League club it was until May 2001.
As others will be quick to point out, there are people and organisations other than Sisu and associates who have contributed to the current crisis. Coventry City Council, Wasps, the Higgs Charity, the EFL and particularly some directors from the pre-Sisu days, have all taken some actions or decisions that turned out not to be in the best interests of Coventry City FC, even though many of those were taken with good intentions.
But Sisu have been in control of our football club for 11 years. Tim Fisher was appointed in 2011 and Joy Seppala has had a ‘hands on’ involvement since that time, after realising that her former colleagues such as Onye Igwe had made a complete hash of things. And there is only so long that those in charge can go on blaming others for a problematic situation, particularly when the list of failings of the owner and directors of the business is so extensive.
As I have outlined in preceding sections:
- Sisu had almost 7 years to buy the 50% shareholding in ACL from Higgs yet failed to take the opportunity, with disastrous consequences for CCFC. The Club lost out, partly because Sisu were not willing to pay the value that the Trustees and then Wasps could see in that investment.
- From 2013 onwards, Joy and Tim made it clear that they did not want the Sky Blues to play at the Ricoh. Plan A was a new stadium, they wouldn't consider being within City Council jurisdiction, or would only consider buying the Ricoh on a Freehold deal. Every statement made clear that a tenancy arrangement at the Ricoh was not an option for the Football Club. It was a series of statements in which Sisu would “mislead, filibuster or posture”, despite Tim and Joy’s arrogant claims to the contrary, since these announcements never amounted to anything more than cheap words and pretty pictures.
- Many months before the deal with Wasps, Ann Lucas stated publicly on more than one occasion that Sisu should make an offer in respect of the Stadium, or the Council would seek alternative options for the future of the Ricoh. These invitations and warnings were ignored by Sisu, as was last year’s warning by Nick Eastwood of the consequences if legal action did not cease. The failure of CCFC’s owner to listen and act accordingly has been a major factor in the present situation.
- When returning to the Ricoh from Northampton in 2014, a return secured by pressure from supporters, the club would still only agree a 2 year firm + 2 year option arrangement, because Sisu were persisting with the myth that the future lay in a new stadium.
- Only when the sale to Wasps was announced did Sisu kick up a fuss, using the sale to launch a further attempt to obtain the Ricoh on the cheap through legal action.
- Even then, Sisu/Otium had a final chance to buy the Higgs’ shares. While offering similar headline financial value, we were informed by the AEHC Trustees that the Otium offer was wrapped up in conditions and structures which depreciated the real value, whereas Wasps offered cash upfront and unconditionally.
- The council made statements of re-assurance that the deal with Wasps should not adversely affect CCFC, but to the best of my knowledge these were non-contractual. Even a contractual covenant would not give a tenant carte blanche to behave in anyway it wants, protect the tenant from the consequences of its own actions or allow the renewal of a lease in all or any circumstances. The accusation that this “covenant” had only a 4-year life is a direct result of the short-term nature of the Club’s commitment to a tenancy and the continuance of litigation that threatens Wasps’ survival.
- Even after Wasps completed the purchase of 100% of ACL, Fisher and Seppala still insisted that Plan A was a new ground. Then, when it was obvious that Stadium would not be delivered, the preferred option ie. Plan A Version II, became a groundshare at BPA. Only now, when they've failed to deliver on either of those commitments, Version III of their strategy has become: "Plan A has been and remains staying at the Ricoh Arena ". This declaration frankly insults the intelligence of Supporters, Wasps’ Management and any other interested party.
- The owner and directors have always been ready to apportion and deflect blame onto others yet are rarely willing to acknowledge fault on their own part, recently implying that onus of responsibility is all on Wasps and the Council to ensure that a new deal is done at the Ricoh.
- Sisu and Otium can solve this problem immediately. They should drop the JR2 court case, not just because it threatens CCFC’s very existence but fundamentally because the core of the case, that Wasps underpaid for the shares in ACL, is without foundation. One High Court Judge and three Appeal Court Judges have taken this view. My professional experience suggests from a different perspective that the actual events of Autumn 2014, in which Otium ducked the challenge to outbid Wasps for the Higgs’ shares, supports the view of the Justices.
But please don’t just take my word for it. The Judges view is also supported by the statements from Tim Fisher and on behalf of Otium, that the offer was “generous” and “guaranteed above market value price”, comments which undermine the central argument of the JR2 Applicants.
Joy, Tim and Friends …. Condemned by their own words!