Football League are failing clubs
5 August ~ The sorry recent history of Coventry City took a further tragic turn on Friday, when a creditors’ meeting failed to approve the CVA proposed by the administrator. This led to the liquidation of Coventry City Ltd (a subsidiary of the club) and the imposition of a ten-point penalty. Crucially, it also solidified the animosity between the two warring parties – Coventry City’s owners, Sisu, and ACL, the owners of the Ricoh Arena – to such an extent that the prospect of Coventry playing in Coventry again in the near future is virtually non-existent. Barring a miracle, Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium, 35 miles from Coventry, is now "home".
Once again, the story revolves around the mistakes of financial stakeholders with no affiliation to the football club, and utterly fails to address the interests of fans. Brighton manager Oscar Garcia recently said that “football without fans is nothing” – and yet the Coventry situation has demonstrated that fans are the least of the concerns of those responsible for governing the sport. At every stage of this saga, the actions of Sisu and ACL have been entirely selfish, and it is a travesty that the Football League have failed to regulate them. In their passive endorsement, they are as complicit as anyone else in this mess. A 130-year-old football club and its tens of thousands of fans are mere collateral damage.
Ignoring the tedious technicalities of the dispute for one moment, the outcome for fans is that we no longer have a club to support in Coventry. On-pitch prospects are laughable – the season was only 21 minutes old on Saturday and we were 2-0 at Crawley on the way to a 3-2 defeat marred by fan protests. Steven Pressley is stuck with a squad consisting largely of youth players, restricted by a seemingly never-ending transfer embargo. We begin 2013-14 with a hefty points handicap, playing in front of "home" crowds of a few hundred fans (down from an average of 11,000 in 2012-13). Assuming we survive liquidation, relegation is almost a certainty. We have no home, no identity and no prospects.
In order for a positive future to emerge, the club’s supporters must now unite behind the Sky Blue Trust and look to the likes of Portsmouth, Swansea and Wimbledon for inspiration as examples of fans wrestling back control of their clubs. The regimes of Sisu and their predecessors need thorough investigation, and those responsible for destroying our club should be held accountable. If there is a positive legacy to come from this, it should be renewed pressure on the Football League to force transparency, regulation of ownership and increased supporter involvement in the running of their clubs. In the meantime, I anticipate a long, painful season ahead. Tom Furnival-Adams