Sky Blues to play in Northampton next season
9 July ~ The prospect of Coventry City having to play home games outside the city had been in the background throughout much of 2013. This was due to an escalation of the rent dispute between the club's owners SISU and Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), the owners of the Ricoh Arena, home to the Sky Blues since 2005. Nonetheless, the Coventry Telegraph's exclusive last Thursday that for the next three seasons the club would be sharing Northampton Town's Sixfields Stadium delivered a hammer blow to City supporters.
The outcome of the recent administration process appeared to have gone in favour of SISU (in the guise of Otium Entertainment Group, purchasers of the part of the club that had gone into administration). They claim to be looking for a site in the Coventry area for a new stadium and the expectation was that a last-minute deal would be done to stay at the Ricoh until that ambition came close to reality.
As the only non-connected, unsecured creditor, ACL can block the company voluntary arrangement that is due to be discussed on July 22 and they have offered to let the club stay rent-free at the Ricoh, paying just matchday costs until they are out of administration, followed by further discussions. That is just one of the reasons why the Football League were urged to block the groundshare move as the club could not justifiably claim they had no option but to leave the city. Plans for a new ground have got further than having preferred bidder status for an unnamed piece of land.
On Monday, however, the League approved the groundshare while expressing "deep regret" that an agreement could not be reached between Otium and ACL. It seems that the prospect of starting the League One season with only 23 clubs outweighed the League's stated desire to have clubs playing in the towns or cities from which they take their name.
A protest movement named Not One Penny More has been set up urging supporters not to contribute financially to the club until they confirm they will be playing in Coventry and only a fraction of last season's 10,000-plus average gate are expected to make the trip to Northampton. SISU/Otium, however, have reached this point without paying notice to the criticism they have received and are unlikely to stop now. The Ricoh Arena is not an easy stadium to love and many Coventry City supporters have spent the past seven seasons looking back fondly at their former Highfield Road home. Right now, though, the Ricoh is a place that all fans would like to be for the game against Bristol City on August 10. Alex Wolstenholme