Coventry City’s existence is in doubt once again as they face homelessness next season and now the Government says football authorities must do more to prevent such crises.
The Sky Blues’ unpopular owners, SISU, have failed to secure an agreement to play at the Ricoh Arena for the second season in a row and remain locked in a legal dispute with the stadium owners – putting the club’s EFL status at risk.
SISU has launched legal action against the Ricoh Arena’s owner, Wasps Rugby Club, with Wasps refusing to provide a new tenancy agreement while litigation is ongoing. SISU are now being urged to drop the case by multiple stakeholders.
The House of Commons discussed the ongoing crisis in Parliament this week after Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham secured Parliamentary time to look into the issue.
“Too many football clubs have faced similar problems,” Cunningham told the House. “But the common factor is poor stewardship by owners.
“Football club owners own something far more important than just a business. They owe it to the local community to run the club carefully and responsibly.”
The Sports Minister Mims Davies said her department would speak to all parties involved in the dispute in an attempt to bring them together and find a resolution – but stopped short of promising direct Government intervention.
“It is my belief that the Government should not involve themselves directly in the fortunes of any individual club, but more and more we are being dragged into these types of disputes,” Davies told MPs.
“This cannot become the norm. It suggests that perhaps football is not able to govern itself—something we need to be ready to tackle.”
This is now the fourth Government debate held in recent years regarding the future of the Sky Blues and the club’s current agreement with Wasps for the Ricoh Arena ends in May.
In 2013, Coventry City had to ground share with Northampton Town, some 34 miles away, after failing to secure the Ricoh Arena and is now even considering ground-sharing with Nuneaton Town, who play in the National League North.
The Sports Minister said her department would be speaking to the FA and the EFL to look again at ownership regulations and challenges they face in that area.
“The Government are prepared to champion the game,” Davies said. “But the authorities that govern it must ensure that we all get the outcomes that fans, above all, want and expect.”
Coventry North MP Colleen Fletcher said the club’s failure to secure a home for next season would be “disastrous” for the Midlands city.
“Here we are again, a year on, and the club is once more on the countdown to homelessness,” she said. “That has left many fans again fearful that the club may leave Coventry or, worse still, cease to exist.
“Both scenarios would be disastrous for our city and for the club’s loyal supporters; neither must be allowed to happen under any circumstances.”
Fletcher, like many supporters of Coventry City, has seriously questioned SISU’s suitability, capability and fitness to own and run a football club.
FSF affiliates the Sky Blue Trust said they welcomed the Parliamentary debate which brought national attention to the club’s issues once again.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Trust said: “What is important now is how the various parties who have the ability to prevent the homelessness of Coventry City will act.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and seek urgent answers as well as positive actions from all of the parties concerned.”
Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this article.