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Council and Sky Blues meet to discuss new home

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 10:35am

By Tom Davis - Local Democracy Reporter

The council has met Coventry City Football Club to discuss its impending homelessness.

The football club’s current deal with Ricoh Arena owners Wasps expires at the end of the season and they are weeks away from being left without a home.

Owners SISU have remained silent for months as an ongoing legal dispute over the council’s sale of the Ricoh to Wasps – which they claimed undervalued the stadium – continues.

But SISU broke their silence in an open letter to fans last week, stating they would drop legal action if the council supported a stadium development and a medium-term arrangement with Wasps to stay at the Ricoh in the meantime was agreed.

Cllr Duggins spoke out on the letter during a full council meeting on March 19.

Notably, he also said the council was in discussions with the football club for a new home.

He said: “Council officers have talked to Coventry City Football Club around issues that relate to a relocation from the Ricoh Arena in recent years, the details of which I will not go into today.

“But I can inform colleagues that only this afternoon officers are meeting with agents of the football club, so therefore we are fulfilling one of the issues that SISU are so interested in.”

In his speech, he also criticised elements of SISU’s letter as untrue, denying the club was not offered the ability to buy a stake in Ricoh Arena company ACL.

He said: “In 2012 they were in discussion with the Alan Higgs Trust and they simply failed to agree on how the shares in ACL would be transferred to Sisu.

“They maintained in 2012 that Heads of Terms were agreed and signed with the council.

“Again this is not correct, they were signed with the Alan Higgs Trust and they alone will know why they did not conclude that deal.

“They maintain also that the council reneged on a rescue package for ACL.

“Again that is simply not true and the issues around the purchase of the loan by the council from Yorkshire Bank has long been dealt with within Judicial Review 1 when their argument was soundly dismissed by Mr Justice Hickinbottom.

“In 2013 councillor Ann Lucas as leader of the council entered into discussions with Sisu to explore if they would be interested in acquiring part or all of ACL.

“Their response was they wanted the sale of the Arena on an unencumbered freehold basis – another opportunity missed.

“Ann made it very clear that we were in a position where we would have to move on.

“Finally in October 2014 they had the opportunity to buy into ACL.

“Their bid was slightly higher than the bid made by Wasps for the Alan Higgs Trust shares however the offer from Wasps was unconditional and the Liquidators offer was conditional. Three opportunities lost.

“There are many other errors within the statement last week.

“One of which was that there was not any mention of the rent strike between March 2012 to March 2013. They outlined that ACL received over £850,000 in rental payments at that time. Whilst that is true, most of this was taken out of the Escrow account.”

Cllr Duggins said he would welcome any written plans on the football club’s new stadium to be presented to the council if this was their ‘Plan A’.

“This issue needs to be drawn to a close,” he said.

“We need to get to a position in which Coventry City do not move out of Coventry again.

“I cannot see an easy way of ensuring that does not happen other than the legals are traded off for a deal at the Ricoh.”

English Football League bosses have told Coventry City they must be able to provide the league with a suitable venue at which it can play its home games next season.

Unless a solution has been found, a vote will take place in April as to whether Coventry City can remain in the league.

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