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Coventry City engulfed by financial mess

Chaos has consumed the League One club as disputes arise over what parts of the club are in administration and where the team will play next season

The chaos that has consumed Coventry City for over a year is a financial mess that has left fans in the dark about which parties own what parts of their club, whether they will play at the Ricoh Arena ever again and if they are under the ownership of the hedge fund that led them into administration.

It began in March this season when a dispute arose between the club’s owners SISU, a Mayfair-based hedge fund, and Arena Coventry Limited who own the Ricoh Arena (who are joint owned by Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity).

SISU stopped paying their annual rent of £1.3 million (considerably higher than any other team in League One and the Championship) and demanded that the fee be lowered and match day income be shared between Coventry City and the stadium owners.

ACL made an improved offer of £400,000 rent per season, but once negotiations fell through they applied for an administration order through the high courts against the club.

On March 28th the high courts ruled that Coventry City be placed into administration, which elicited the Football League to deduct 10 points from the League One team, which before the punishment had been chasing promotion.

Then the confusion really began. SISU appealed the 10 point deduction by claiming that it was Coventry City Football Club Limited, who had the lease for the Ricoh Arena and club offices, which was in administration. This was opposed to Coventry City Football Club Holdings, which SISU claims have the “golden share” which allows the club to play in the Football League, so there should be no deduction.

The confusion over the different parts of the club and who owned them slowed down the administrator’s job to find a new owner for Coventry City. Throw into the mix that Sky Blues officials decided that they wouldn’t return to the Ricoh Arena and would attempt a ground share at nearby clubs – even though ACL had offered them to stay rent free for a season, just to keep the team in Coventry.

Administrator Paul Appleton set a deadline for offers and was given four concrete propositions, one from American tycoon Preston Haskell IV, and one from Otium Entertainment Group, which was headed by three former Coventry City directors who all had links to SISU.

To fans despair the offer was accepted from OEG because they had offered the most money, and now the club have found themselves with the same owners as a year before but this time lacking any home.

The issue really began in 2005 when Coventry moved from Highfield Road, their home for the previous 106 years. A move was agreed upon because their old stadium needed much renovation work and had no potential for expansion, so they moved into their rented home.

This decision was unsustainable because they couldn’t claim full match day revenue which was always going to make rental payments difficult, and SISU were becoming angry at repeated rebuffs when they attempted to purchase the Ricoh Arena.

Coventry City fans will feel despair that such incompetent groups have the life of the club in their hands, and are carelessly tossing it around. It’s a sentiment that is increasingly shared by English fans as reckless owners endanger clubs that are so important in their local communities.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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