In my last message under this headi ng I explored the motivation behind SISU’s actions, and came to the conclusion they were using the football club as a means of gaining ownership of the Ricoh Arena.
Events have since moved on. Now that SISU/Otium has expertly subverted the administration process and retained control of the club where will they go from here?
Assuming my proposition about grabbing the Arena is correct, here’s my surmise about what SISU’s tactics will be going forward:
1. Avoid playing at the Ricoh at all costs…anything otherwise would give ACL hope that a reconciliation is on the horizon, and would give ACL much-needed funds to balance the books in the short-term.
2. Find a temporary alternative venue for the club. Playing away from the Ricoh piles the financial pressure on ACL, and gives SISU much-needed breathing space.
3. Make a pretence of building a new stadium elsewhere. All part of raising the panic level for ACL, on the basis that the Ricoh looks like losing its anchor tenant for the long term. Of course, there is no intention at all to waste money on actually building anything. It’s all a smokescreen, and the aim for SISU is to drag this story out for as long as possible to keep ACL on tenterhooks.
4. Do everything possible to achieve a “successful” outcome in the legal action against Coventry City Council. If CCC becomes obliged to withdraw its funding of ACL, the latter can be expected to fold quickly and collapse into administration.
5. Wait…..and let the financial pressure on ACL gradually build, due to no matchday revenues, reduced casino income, compensation demands from outside caterers, increasing complaints from city residents about council use of their funds…etc etc.
6. Once ACL has folded and is forced into administration, step in with a bid which reunites the Arena with the football club. No-one else has the benefit of this business model to underwrite their bid, so SISU can afford to make a more generous offer than others, whilst still securing the stadium for less than its market value.
So what could go wrong? What might keep SISU, awake at night?
a) The court action fails…meaning ACL as a business with city council support could limp along for some considerable time.
b) SISU is unable to secure a temporary venue elsewhere, leaving little choice but to return to the Ricoh. This would blow a hole in the strategy to put ACL under financial stress. And how embarrassing would it be to have to climbdown after all those public statements?
c) The Football League rules SISU/Otium unfit to own the club. This already looks vanishingly unlikely, but if the FL did surprise us all by demonstrating some integrity it would be the end of the dream for SISU. Or maybe just the start of an almighty legal action brought by SISU against the FL.
d) Intervention by government to tighten up the FL’s club ownership and management rules, thus increasing the likelihood of SISU being deprived of the golden share. As the recent response from government to Chad Roberts’s excellent petition has shown (http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-fa-the-football-league-of-england-a-review-into-the-purchase-of-coventry-city-fc-by-bidders-sisu), this scenario is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Voluntary reform of the FL rules is expected by MPs very soon, otherwise it will be imposed. Unfortunately this is unlikely to arrive fast enough to have an impact on CCFC’s present situation.
e) ACL goes bust but the Administrator sells the Arena to another party. Given the narrow financial parameters governing the Administrator’s decisions, and SISU’s obvious expertise in manipulating the process, this may seem unlikely. But if it did happen what would SISU do next? Negotiate with the new owner for a deal to play at the Arena? Cut their losses and sell the club to the highest bidder? Sue the Administrator?
f) People power intervenes to disrupt SISU’s plans. It’s difficult to foresee all the options here, but already we have the “Not One Penny More” movement and the proposed boycott by Arena stewards. None of these actions is likely to prove fatal in its own right, but they have the potential to be disruptive, irritating and expensive to SISU.
What does this tell us, the supporters of CCFC? What can we do to force SISU to drop their grand plan? Here are a few thoughts which might galvanise those with the required expertise and resources to step forward:
i) Lobby other clubs and organisations not to groundshare with CCFC. This is a key action which needs to be done quickly! The Sky Blue Trust, as a respected platform for CCFC fans, may be a good vehicle to front this.
ii) Encourage more grassroots actions such as Not One Penny More and the steward’s boycott. Non-co-operation is the name of the game here. It goes without saying that for the good of the cause any such actions should be non-violent and within the law.
iii) Lobby your local MP, and the Sports Minister Hugh Robertson to tighten-up the FL’s regulations regarding ownership and management of football clubs. Even if this doesn’t arrive in time for us it will at least raise our profile and could save thousands of supporters of other clubs from experiencing similar grief in the future.
iv) Lobby investors not to use SISU hedge funds. A successful campaign would hit SISU directly in the pocket, potentially causing much more damage than ownership of the club/Ricoh gives back to them. Are there any investment specialists out there who can advise how to go about this?
These are my latest speculations. Comments and ideas from others will be warmly welcomed.