THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

21 July ~ For most of Coventry's ten seasons in English football's second tier, the new campaign has begun with talk of promotions or play-offs. But, with star assets sold or lost and no money seemingly available for replacements, the club's fears for Championship status in 2011-12 are matched only by fears for survival itself. An alarming slump at the end of last season left Sky Blues fans with very real fears of relegation. Off the pitch, the unexpected failure of either Coventry City Football Club Ltd or its holding company to post accounts in March was followed by the £1 million remortgage of the only freehold property the club owned – their training ground, upgraded in 2008 for a princely £500,000.

Losses among playing staff following the season's conclusion have also been significant. Goalkeeper Keiran Westwood has moved to Sunderland and Aron Gunnarsson has gone to Cardiff, while Marlon King acrimoniously defected to Birmingham and new club captain Sammy Clingan has reportedly been the subject of interest from Leeds. Lee Carsley and Michael McIndoe are now free agents. While last season's transfer embargo has been lifted, only goalkeepers Chris Dunn from Northampton and Joe Murphy from Scunthorpe have so far arrived at the Ricoh Arena.

Coventry are reportedly losing money every month and owners Sisu have rejected buyout offers from a consortium led by former vice-chairman Gary Hoffman. An initial verbal approach was rejected, while an official written offer was dismissed, according to club chief executive Paul Clouting, because "It was on a plain sheet of paper. It wasn't headed and wasn't signed… The note that was sent back to Mr Hoffman said that it can't take the offer seriously as the identity of the person wishing to buy the club isn't disclosed. On July 1 Mr Hoffman wrote to the club saying with sadness any offer has been taken off the table."

Hoffman has since confirmed that his investors remain interested, but impatient. A popular conspiracy theory among fans alleges that Sisu are waiting for a sell-on clause for Birmingham's Scott Dann to be activated, should he leave St Andrew's, before selling up. What is certainly true is that while they have gone on the offensive recently – Clouting has confirmed that Sisu would continue to fund the club, but could not say that further player sales would not take place to raise funds – the club's stadium, the Ricoh Arena, continues to cripple its progress.

The Sky Blues' home, yet to see a league sellout in six years of existence, has hamstrung Coventry ever since its tardy completion in 2005. Currently tenants under a cooperation agreement with stadium owners ACL, the club have struggled with the balance of restricted income and ambitious investment in challenging for promotion. While Hoffman's consortium is believed to be prepared to make £30m available (£10m to purchase a stake in the Ricoh and the rest to buy out Sisu), there will need to be some movement soon to ensure the club escapes a crisis similar to that which it was embroiled in back in 2007, when Sisu were the knights in shining armour. For the moment though, the attrition is worrying. Rob Macdonald

Comments (5)
Comment by aidan_cov 2011-07-21 14:12:16

What is also worrying is that they have taken out a £1m loan against future Football League payments and another loan rumoured to be several million mortgaged from the coming season ticket sales. This all took place just before the embargo on this sort of deal was agreed at the Football League AGM in Cyprus. These deals have incurred financial costs in the hundreds of thousands. This all apparently so that they could pay wages on time, keep ticking over until the season starts and avoid another transfer embargo. With daily rumours regarding the departure of their few remaining saleable assets (Clingan, Jutkiewicz and Turner) and the keenness of Andy Thorn to blood youngsters in the pre-season friendlies to date is the writing on the wall already? Isn't it bad enough that we are the least successful league club of the past forty years without this?

Comment by Zorg the Leveller 2011-07-21 15:42:38

Whilst not wishing to belittle or question your account of Coventry's present woes - I don't doubt its accuracy - I would draw attention to your opening observation that Cov's seasons tend to start with optimism and expectation.

I've noticed this, with surprise, also. Is it part of the problem? It's completely divorced from reality, since Cov since relegation have been the same sort of bottom-half staples as they were in the top flight, only occasionally poking their noses above halfway? Seventeenth or lower in each of the last four seasons? Only once in the top ten in those last ten years? Is the ongoing misassessment of Cov's place in the grand scheme of things and consequent disappointment a root cause of the low crowds?

Comment by 1974ddr 2011-07-24 12:24:52

Coventry are the least successful league club of the last forty years? Not that I've carried out any research, or anything, but at random I would have thought you'd get an argument from Hartlepool, Rochdale, Crewe, Northampton, Gillingham... (continues in this vein for some time).

Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-07-24 19:15:35

I guess it depends how you measure it. All the clubs you mention have enjoyed at least the occasional promotion season - Rochdale only recently, admittedly. In my life time (I'm 41), Coventry have never been promoted, and as Zorg says, only occasionally threatened the upper half of whichever division they happen to be in. Take away THAT F.A. Cup final - and Aidan did say 'least successful league club' - they probably do have a case to claim the most mediocre run of performance, since 1970, of any club.

Comment by djw 2011-07-28 22:48:49

As an Orient fan, I'd gladly take Coventry's 'lack of success' and swap it with the two promotions I've been rewarded with for 35 years of support. Being in the top flight and an FA Cup win is 'success' that I can only dream of.

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