14th April 2017 was not “Good Friday” for supporters of Coventry City Football Club. That date will forever be remembered as the day that the Sky Blues fell into the 4th tier of English Football, the lowest position since the formation of the old 4th Division in 1958/59. We have known for weeks that this relegation was inevitable, yet the sound of the final whistle last Friday marked a very sorrowful moment for all fans of the club.
Yet there has not been a single word of acknowledgement of this event, or the pain it has caused to thousands of people, from either you or Ms Joy Seppala. The very least you should have done was to issue an apology for the outcome of the worst season on record and to accept your share of responsibility for what has occurred.
You were quick enough to issue a statement regarding Season Ticket prices for 2017/18 in the wake of widespread criticism from supporters. You are never slow to ask us to put our hands in our pockets to finance the club. This was followed by an emotional appeal from Mark Robins for financial backing from fans. But when it comes to admitting fault and showing remorse for the damage you have caused, there is a resounding silence.
I am sure that the Sky Blue faithful all want to support our manager and his team in their efforts to climb out of the League 2 pit at the first attempt. The problem many of us face is not with backing Mark or the players, it is the complete lack of confidence we have in your ability to run Coventry City Football Club. As Robins said in his statement, “it is hard earned money” and we don’t want to throw good money after bad, yet again.
Apart from the recent “one-off” Checkatrade Trophy victory, it is impossible to think of a single success that has been registered in your time as Director and Chairman of the Sky Blues. On the other hand, the failures are many and appalling:
- 2 Relegations
- 1 Administration
- The Season at Sixfields
- Loss of the Ricoh Arena
- Dwindling Attendances
- Broken Relationships with key organisations in the City
- Alienation of large sections of the remaining fan-base
You claim that you have improved the financial position of Coventry City but that has been at huge cost to the things that matter to supporters, performance on the pitch and the infrastructure of the club.
In addition to the list above, the situation of the Academy remains at severe risk. With time rapidly expiring on the lease at Allard Way in June, there is genuine fear that this crucial resource will be lost. It has been the bedrock of team development for many years but has also underpinned the financial performance, with sales of players like James Maddison offsetting losses on normal operations.
Given that track record, why should supporters be expected to commit hard-earned cash to a failing enterprise? Some will, of course, and I respect their commitment and unstinting loyalty. Football supporters are used to allowing their hearts to rule their heads. Many others – survey evidence indicates perhaps 75 to 80% of season ticket holders – have reached the conclusion that “Enough is Enough”. While Sisu remain in control of the club, maintaining a stance that there will be no further investment, and while you remain on the Board of Directors, there is unlikely to be a satisfactory uptake of Season Tickets for next season.
Clearly, that will not help Mark Robins to build a competitive squad for the next campaign. It is an unwelcome situation but an inevitable consequence of your long-term mismanagement of this football club.
Tim, it is time that you accepted that the buck stops with you for the misfortunes of Coventry City. Unless you want to tell us that the key decisions are actually made by Joy Seppala, although she is not a statutory director of either Otium Entertainment Limited (Coventry City FC) or its holding company, Sky Blue Sports & Leisure Limited.
Like many others, I want to go on watching my Sky Blues but I am unwilling to make further financial commitment as things stand. You and the management of the club want to boost season ticket sales. There are a number of steps that you could take to improve the level of uptake.
Soundings from fans over the weekend indicate that a fundamental obstacle to Season Ticket renewal is your continued tenure in the role of Club Chairman. Many, myself included, have stated that they would willingly invest in a Season Ticket for next season, if you resign from the Board by the end of this month. This should not be a difficult decision for you to make; anyone with a reasonable degree of self-awareness would previously have acknowledged their personal failure and stood down already.
A further stimulus to revenue would be an immediate commitment from Joy Seppala to deliver significant additional investment by Sisu in the playing budget made available to Mark Robins. This seems the very least she should do as an act of contrition for her disastrous stewardship of Coventry City over 9 years, which has culminated in the latest relegation.
Finally, a decision that could actually achieve an increase in Season Ticket numbers would be for Sisu to put the club up for sale on realistic terms. Some fans who have stayed away in recent seasons may once again be persuaded to return, in addition to many who are now saying that they won’t renew this summer while Sisu remain.
You and Ms Seppala have it in your control to maximise this vital source of revenue and it is imperative that you both take the appropriate actions. If you are unwilling to do so, the blame for the fall in ticketing revenue, Season Tickets and individual match tickets, and the consequences of the reduced income will lie squarely with you.
The Jimmy Hill Way Campaign