Coventry City To Return To Ricoh Arena After Rent Dispute Resolved
League One side Coventry City's 14-month exile "is over after the club agreed a deal to return to the Ricoh Arena in time for the Sky Bet League One match with Gillingham on Saturday September 6," according to Ian Baker of the LONDON TIMES. Coventry has "been forced to play 34 miles away from the city, at Sixfields Stadium in Northampton, during a dispute over rent between Sisu, the club’s owners," and Arena Coventry Ltd., operators of the stadium. However, that was resolved when Sisu paid £471,192 ($782,000) "following a Football League ruling earlier this month and fans’ protests." Club Development Dir Steve Waggott said, "We are delighted to get this deal done and I am sure every supporter of Coventry City will be thrilled with this news. We are under no illusion what a difficult 12 months it has been for the supporters and that was uppermost in our thinking as we worked to get this deal done" (LONDON TIMES, 8/21).
WAITING ON THE BOARD: The Scotland DAILY RECORD reported a switch "needs approval from the Football League board but rules do allow clubs to change grounds during the season." The deal between ACL and Sisu "comes after a dispute from April 2012 when the Sky Blues started to withhold rent from the stadium operators." The club "refused to pay" what it believed to be unreasonable rent for the use of the stadium (DAILY RECORD, 8/21). The BBC reported "the agreement can be extended until 2018." Sky Blue Trust's Jan Mokrzycki said, "It's really a victory for fan power and common sense. Obviously the two sides in the negotiations have put the past behind them. It's time for supporters to unite and get behind the team." Many supporters "opted not to go to games at Sixfields, with the Sky Blues attracting an average home attendance of only 2,348 last season, the lowest in the division" (BBC, 8/21).
WELCOME NEWS: In Coventry, Simon Gilbert wrote the Football League "appears to have given its consent to the move after releasing a statement praising the parties for coming to a resolution following a long-running dispute." A compensation payment "will also be due to Northampton Town from the Sky Blues as part of the contractual conditions" (COVENTRY TELEGRAPH, 8/21). The DERBY TELEGRAPH reported the Football League "welcomed the news," with CEO Shaun Harvey saying, "Getting the two parties to this point has taken a significant amount of work over a lengthy period of time by everyone involved in this process. ... When The Football League Board gave its consent to Coventry City playing its matches in Northampton, it did so with this outcome in mind" (DERBY TELEGRAPH, 8/21).