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