Coventry City have today issued a public invitation, via the Coventry Telegraph to the city council to talks about the possibility of the club returning to the Ricoh Arena and whether there is the possibility that the council will sell the freehold of the Ricoh Arena to the club’s owners Sisu/Otium.
The head of Sisu, Joy Seppala, has said the only way the club will ever return to the Ricoh is as owners. The purpose of the invitation to talks is to clarify whether the council is prepared to sell the Ricoh to the club.
The statement in full:
STATEMENT BY COVENTRY CITY FOOTBALL CLUB
We generally try to avoid tit-for-tat press releases and hadn’t intended to respond to the statement rushed out by Cllr Lucas following the demonstration by fans outside the council house. Like many of the statements drafted by ACL’s London-based PR consultants, it contains more generalisations than specific action points. However, many fans have asked us to issue a response. In particular, they have asked us to cut through the spin and focus on specifics.
Most sensible people agree that a football club, any football club, needs to own its stadium in order to be financially viable on a long-term basis. There can be no return to the old landlord-tenant relationship with ACL, which since 2005 saddled the club with an excessive rent and inflated service charges and deprived it of match day revenues.
We have repeatedly asked the council to discuss a sale of the Ricoh Arena to the club. The senior council officers who also serve as directors of ACL have told us that they have no authority to discuss this with us, only the council leadership can do so. So it is a very simple question for Cllr Lucas: is she prepared to discuss a freehold sale of the Ricoh?
If so, we will sit down and talk. If not, we will build a new stadium on the outskirts of Coventry. We can’t wait around much longer and are therefore pushing ahead with our efforts to acquire a site. Joy Seppala will be writing privately to Cllr Lucas shortly in order to find out exactly what the council’s position is.
Cllr Lucas has not so far confirmed that she will discuss a sale and does not appear to have commissioned an independent valuation to get the ball rolling. We are of course disappointed with this stance, as it was clear that the Council were prepared to sell the Ricoh to other parties, just not to the club’s owners. We believe that Cllr Lucas’ predecessor as leader, Cllr John Mutton, met with her very recently to confirm that he had been prepared to discuss stadium ownership with other parties and urged her to negotiate with us.
We are also disappointed that Cllr Lucas is using the Judicial Review application as an excuse not to answer questions. The application relates to a very specific area of the law and need not prevent the council from answering many of the perfectly sensible questions which fans are asking. During the initial stages of this process, the council, ACL and Walker Morris continued to make media statements and appearances. There is never any legal bar on the truth. We cannot believe that the council’s lawyers would ever advise Cllr Lucas that speaking the truth could prejudice any legal process and we’d still like to know the real reason why Cllr Lucas authorised ACL’s rejection of the CVA which cost “my beloved Sky Blues” another 10 points.
The letter went on the say, “The senior council officers (Chris West and Martin Reeves) who also serve as directors of Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) have told us that they have no authority to discuss this with us, only the council leadership can do so.
“So it is a very simple question for Cllr Lucas: is she prepared to discuss a freehold sale of the Ricoh?
“If so, we will sit down and talk. If not, we will build a new stadium on the outskirts of Coventry.
“We can’t wait around much longer and are therefore pushing ahead with our efforts to acquire a site.”
Leader of the city council, Councillor Ann Lucas refused to answer questions at a council meeting where fans had delivered an 800 signature petition calling for the club to return to the Ricoh Arena. The club said it was disappointed that Councillor Lucas cited the application for a judicial review into the £14m council taxpayers bail out of ACL as an excuse not to answer the fan’s questions.
Councillor Lucas has said on numerous occasions she would be prepared to meet any party willing to discuss the long term future of the club and the ownership of the Ricoh Arena. She also said, “Let’s bring the club home for Christmas.”
For Telegraph article, click on http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/coventry-city-owners-invite-council-6253773
For club statement click on http://www.ccfc.co.uk/news/article/club-statement-301013-1143570.aspx