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SISU respond to council leader criticism

Coventry Council's leader says the Sky Blues' groundshare at Birningham' City is a bitter blow for everyone involved.

The club has failed to agree a new Ricoh Arena deal - amid ongoing legal action linked to the venue's sale to Wasps.

George Duggins believes club owners SISU's decision to take their case to the European Commission's the catalyst for the breakdown of talks.

Speaking at a meeting of full council on Tuesday, June 18, Cllr Duggins said: “To get an understanding of the length of time action against the council be it a rent strike conflated with legal action has been ongoing, a child starting primary school in their reception class in September 2012 is now on the verge of leaving their primary school next month. Still legal action continues.

“I make no apologies for calling this out and have done on behalf of the whole council and rate payers of this city.

“Like many I rejoiced at the fact that the Supreme Court judgement in April heralded an opportunity for the football club and Wasps to sit down and negotiate a licence deal for the Sky Blues to be playing at the Ricoh.

“There was a feeling of euphoria about that. But unfortunately there was the issue of Sisu filing a case against the City Council with the European Commission.

“I believe that this was the catalyst which led to the breakdown of the talks between CCFC and Wasps and if talks are to continue I would also welcome that.

“But Sisu do need to explain what it is they are hoping to gain by taking the matter to the European Commission.”

Cllr Duggins said the announcement that Coventry would be playing at St Andrew’s “was not surprising”, but was disappointing nonetheless.

He also hit out at people who he claimed were attempting to “re-write or distort history”, outlining three opportunities – in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – where Sisu was offered the chance to buy shares in the Ricoh Arena before its eventual sale to Wasps.

He added: “We were in a position in which Coventry City Council and the Alan Higgs Trust had a stadium with no team to play in, Wasps had a team but having had two planning applications turned down in Wycombe, had no stadium to play in and to add to that, when the football club did return and some have used the words enticed back I think it is more they came back because their time in Northampton was a disaster in terms of attendances.

“When they came back they made it clear that this was only for a 2 +2 years so they could build their own stadium, a stadium which has not materialised.”

Conservative leader Cllr Gary Ridley, who has supported Cllr Duggins’ stance, expressed his “profound regret” that the club has left the Ricoh.

He added: “SISU could have resolved this issue in five minutes simply by dropping the legal action which has been so roundly defeated in the courts.

“Moving forward I hope that a resolution can be found to get the Sky Blues home.

“But I am equally clear that it is unlikely that any future solution without an end to this constant legal action.”

A statement from SISU said, "We have been made aware of Cllr Duggins’ statement at yesterday’s Coventry City Council meeting.  We would prefer not to respond; yet again, we have no choice when highly misleading and inaccurate comments are made.

"Most of Cllr Duggins’ points have been dealt with in our previous open letters and accompanying evidence and we suggest a review of that evidence.  Typically, rather than relying upon the evidence and facts, Cllr Duggins provides select quotes from one media outlet only.

"Additionally, the quotes he depends on were made both before the first mediation process in summer 2014 and CCFC’s return to the Ricoh.  Indeed, as late as August 2014 the then-acting Leader of Coventry City Council publicly stated that there needed to be a period of time to rebuild trust before discussing Ricoh Arena ownership (see attached article).  Clearly, this was never going to happen as by then, the Council were in their final exclusivity sale stage to London Wasps (as they were then called). 

"We have never had the opportunity to buy a stake in the Ricoh: we now know that by December 2012 the Council’s actions and intent were emphatically against CCFC ever owning a stake in the Ricoh, “Member authority given to say CCC will not/never do a deal with SISU” (see attached email). 

"Now it is indeed puzzling that Cllr Duggins seems confused as to our objectives for CCFC.  We have been crystal clear, CCFC needs its own stadium to aspire, grow and progress up the leagues.  The Council failed to engage in a competitive, transparent sales process for the Arena.

"We question why Cllr Duggins has felt the need to issue such a statement now, in what seems to be a deliberate attempt to destabilise the Club as it prepares for the upcoming season."

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