CCFC Return to the Ricoh Arena!

Our press release in response to today’s brilliant news:

We are ecstatic at the news. It is down to all the fans and fan groups who collectively put pressure on all sides to get Cov back to the Ricoh.

Now is the time to celebrate our achievement and unite behind Steven Pressley and the boys.

Throughout this year we have been meeting with the club and Sisu boss Joy Seppala. We called on her to do three things: bring the club back to the Ricoh Arena, speak to the Sky Blue Trust and announce a new stadium land deal if that was the long term intention.

We hope that this temporary deal will lead to a sustainable, long–term solution for the club.

Our reaction to our election campaign

Election night press release  – Response to election campaign.

Brian Patton, who stood for GCBTTR in Holbrook against council leader Ann Lucas, said before polling stations closed: “The campaign has achieved its goals of gaining a higher profile, much publicity and growing support – and giving a voice to the majority who want pressure on all sides to Get Cov Back To The Ricoh now, whoever owns either.

“We have had an overwhelmingly positive response on the doorsteps and in the streets, which shows popular support for the Sky Blues returning to the council-owned Ricoh Arena as a priority, whoever owns either. People very clearly blame all sides for the dispute, including the council. They want all parties to talk urgently about getting the club back home.

“We did not expect to beat the Labour party machine, and there has been a tremendous effort by a small team who delivered leaflets and worked hard to get our message across. It’s disappointing that some fans have chosen to attack us, rather than get behind all attempts to ensure there is pressure on all sides to get the club back to the city it belongs.

“When I was approached by GCBTTR to stand, I said this would be just the start. The campaign will continue.”

Rob Stevens, coordinator of GCBTTR, said: “We’re delighted that our campaign message is being heard and has gained much support on the doorsteps and in the streets, regardless of the vote. The campaign will continue.

“This summer will be an important one. Many people share our view that the council’s strategy of not negotiating with the club’s owners has failed. It’s time for change this summer. The council must do more – in the interests of the club, the city, its economy and taxpayers. We call on fans to unite behind our simple message – to ensure pressure on all sides to Get Cov Back to the Ricoh before it is too late.”

‘Get Cov Back to the Ricoh’ Candidate Patton Challenges Council Leader Lucas to Public Debate

Our latest press release as Brian Patton challenges Ann Lucas to a public debate and we prepare for the Take Us Home rally on Sat May 10th.

‘Get Cov Back To The Ricoh’ election candidate Brian Patton has today challenged Coventry City Council leader Ann Lucas to a public election debate.

Rally at the Council House, Earl Street Coventry on Sat 10 May 2014
Rally at the Council House, Earl Street Coventry on Sat 10 May 2014

It comes ahead of a Sky Blues fans’ demonstration – billed simply as a “Take Us Home” rally – outside the Council House on Saturday, May 10, at 1pm, as part of ‘Get Cov Back To The Ricoh’s “Vote Them Out” campaign.

Ex-councillor Patton will stand in the Holbrook ward in the May 22 council elections against the leader who has presided over a year of the bitter dispute which resulted in Coventry City Football Club playing home matches 35 miles away in Northampton.

Brian – a long-standing critic of the council’s involvement in the Ricoh Arena and how it has affected the club – aims to pressurise the council to do more to get the Sky Blues back to the council-owned stadium for next season.

He has today issued a public challenge to councillor Lucas and all other candidates standing in Holbrook to a public debate – which could take place in the ward ahead of election day on a date to be decided, attracting media coverage.

Brian said: “We desperately need to hear from the council leader about what she intends to do to bring our city’s great football club back home – to the city it belongs, for next season. If it doesn’t happen, the club may not survive much longer.

“I challenge Ann to a public debate so fans and taxpayers can get the answers they so desperately need. The city is crying out for leadership.

“Here in Holbrooks in the shadow of the Ricoh Arena, businesses have closed because of the disastrous consequences of this dispute which all sides must share responsibility for, including the council and its stadium company, Arena Coventry Limited. The entire city’s economy and reputation among potential investors has been damaged too.

“Here, as across the city, most people don’t predominantly care who owns either the club or stadium. They want Coventry City FC back home above all else – and the sooner the better.

Brian added: “The way the council has handled this issue has been appalling. They have operated under a cloak of secrecy – hiding behind dubious legal advice in refusing to even discuss the matter with fans, voters and taxpayers – even when taxpayers’ money has been spent. That includes the £14.4million of our money they spent in secret to bail out what has become an empty taxpayer-subsidised stadium – when it was valued at less than half of that.

“On the rare occasions when Ann has spoken, she has explained why she was calling on the club’s owners to come back as tenants. She has ruled out any talks over a sale of the Ricoh which would unite the club and stadium for the benefit of the city and our much-loved football club.

“That strategy has patently failed. It is likely to go on failing. It is time for change.

“Ann even refused to conduct an economic impact survey into the lost revenue from losing the football club, called for by the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign when it met her in November.

“Unfortunately, the council don’t even appear to be willing to talk to CCFC. It appears too many councillors – both Labour and Tory – have been working to ensure that CCFC don’t return to the Ricoh because they don’t get on with the owners. That needs to stop and people need to ‘grow up’.

“The best prospect of a Ricoh return remains talks over a sale of the stadium, which could be on a long leasehold with ACL removed in the interests of the city. All sides much be prepared to take a hit and not expect a mythical return at some mystical point in the future. That is not serving the city well.”

Brian, in announcing his candidacy last week, said: “Coventry City Football Club were basically set up to fail when the plans for the Ricoh Arena were first drawn up (in 2003). It was obvious to anyone that would listen that they would not be able to attract 22,000 fans to every home game, and that is what they had to do to be able to afford to pay the £1.2m per annum rent.

“In addition, what revenue the football club would be able to make from playing its games at the Ricoh was never really taken into account.  These issues now need to be looked at in greater detail, regardless of what comes out of the Judicial Review that is now pending.”

Brian became a Labour councillor in a by-election in 1997 and remained a councillor until he was barred from standing by the party in the 2008 local elections. He said: ‘This was because I refused to accept a written warning for abstaining on a vote in Full Council – ironically about the Ricoh Arena.”

Brian went on to stand in Coventry in elections for the Liberal Democrats, and he stood for election to Parliament as an MP in the 2010 general election in Coventry South.

Brian has been a highly vocal public critic of the council’s involvement in the Ricoh Arena since a deal was approved in 2003 to build the stadium. He has also criticised the £14.4million secret council deal to bail-out the part-council owned Ricoh management company, Arena Coventry Limited, in January last year. That deal will next month be subject to a Judicial Review into whether it was a mis-use of taxpayers’ money.

Brian works for the National Probation Service as a Probation Service Officer and has worked there for about 18 years.

The Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign – set up last year to represent fans and Coventry people who believe the club’s Ricoh return should be the priority whoever owns the club or stadium – launched its “Vote Them Out” campaign earlier this month.

It is calling on anyone who cares about the Sky Blues’ threatened future to join the demonstration outside Coventry City Council in Earl Street, city centre, on Saturday, May 10, at 1pm.

Long-standing Coventry City fans Rob Stevens and Stuart Cosgrove, joint organisers of the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign, believe that while fans debate to what extent each party was responsible, most people blame all sides, and want all sides to be held to account.

“The Sky Blues’ future remains in doubt with £7million further losses last year recently announced. Liquidation remains a threat, whether or not the plan is to build a new stadium in Warwickshire would could take years. The club’s owners have repeatedly said they will not return as tenants, and will not sell the club before acquiring a stadium. For those fans who want rid of Sisu, combining the club and stadium would give Sisu an exit strategy.”

“The council is heavily Labour dominated and the Conservative opposition have supported councillors’ and council officers’ strategy over the football club. This month’s elections are a chance for all voters to have their say on the dispute and demand more action to bring our club back to the council-owned stadium for next season, which was only built because of the football club.

“We are calling on fans to join the demonstration, and contact election candidates in their wards in a search for answers. If they are not satisfied with their councillors’ answers or actions whichever party they belong to, now is the chance to vote them out.

“There has been a lack of transparency and democratic accountability at Coventry City Council. We do not know how much council taxpayers’ money has been spent of legal and PR fees in the dispute; and our call in December at a council meeting with leader Ann Lucas for an economic impact survey into losing the club was ignored.

Stuart Cosgrove said: “In October, we held a small demonstration at the Council House on a weekday lunchtime. It was never intended as a mass demonstration, but to present one of the largest petitions the council has ever received. The council leader Ann Lucas broke her silence at the council meeting that day and it lead to talks between her and Sisu’s Joy Seppala.

“This will be the first full demonstration during a weekend for us, when more people are available. We welcome all fans and people who care about the club’s future and want to see a Ricoh return next season, regardless or who owns the stadium or the club.

“If you only blame the club’s owners, this demonstration is not for you. We are not apologists for Sisu. They have made mistakes and we have publicly criticised them. We have supported other fans’ activities. But if you believe all sides should shoulder responsibility, now is the time to hold the council to account, whatever comes from the forthcoming Judicial Review, which may or may not move the situation forward.”

Ex-Councillor to Stand for ‘Get Cov Back to the Ricoh’ Against Council Leader Ann Lucas

Our latest press release announcing Brian Patton as a candidate for the coming elections. 

A former councillor is to stand on a ‘Get Cov Back To The Ricoh’ platform against Coventry City Council leader Ann Lucas in next month’s elections.

Experienced city politician Brian Patton will stand in the Holbrook ward in the May 22 council elections against the leader who has presided over a year of the bitter dispute which resulted in Coventry City Football Club playing home matches 35 miles away in Northampton.

Brian – a long-standing critic of the council’s involvement in the Ricoh Arena and how it has affected the club – aims to pressurise the council to do more to get the Sky Blues back to the council-owned stadium for next season.

The Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign – set up last year to represent fans and Coventry people who believe the club’s Ricoh return should be the priority whoever owns the club or stadium – launched its “Vote Them Out” campaign earlier this month. The launch included:

1. A demonstration for fans and the public on May 10 outside the Council House, at 1pm.

2. A call for all voters to contact candidates including sitting councillors in their wards to ask what they would do to get the Sky Blues back to the Ricoh – and vote against them if they are not satisfied.

3. To urge people to stand on a platform of Get Cov Back To The Ricoh.

The Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign is delighted today to announce that Brian Patton, a former Labour councillor, has thrown his hat into the ring in time for today’s close of nominations.

Brian has been a highly vocal public critic of the council’s involvement in the Ricoh Arena since a deal was approved in 2003 to build the stadium. He has also criticised the £14.4million secret council deal to bail-out the part-council owned Ricoh management company, Arena Coventry Limited, in January last year. That deal will next month be subject to a Judicial Review into whether it was a mis-use of taxpayers’ money.

Brian said: “I was approached by the ‘Get Cov Back to The Ricoh’ campaign team to stand in these elections and jumped at the chance, because I believe the way the council has handled this issue has been appalling.  People will remember that I raised concerns about the Ricoh Arena when it was first discussed – and the concerns I raised then have been proven to be the case.

“However, time has moved on and the issue now is, ‘How can we get CCFC playing its football back in Coventry’?. Unfortunately, the council don’t even appear to be willing to talk to CCFC and that needs to change.

“Coventry City Football Club were basically set up to fail when the plans for the Ricoh Arena were first drawn up. It was obvious to anyone that would listen that they would not be able to attract 22,000 fans to every home game, and that is what they had to do to be able to afford to pay the £1.2m per annum rent.

“In addition, what revenue the football club would be able to make from playing its games at the Ricoh was never really taken into account. These issues now need to be looked at in greater detail, regardless of what comes out of the Judicial Review that is now pending.

“Unfortunately, it now appears that there are too many councillors that have been working to ensure that CCFC don’t return to the Ricoh because they don’t get on with the owners. That needs to stop and people need to ‘grow up’.

“Football should be the life’s blood of a city like Coventry and until we get CCFC playing its football here again we will remain the laughing stock of the football world.”

Brian has been married for over 30 years, and has two daughters and two grandsons, Noah and Max.

He works for the National Probation Service as a Probation Service Officer and has worked there for about 18 years.

He became a Labour councillor in a by-election in 1997 and remained a councillor until he was barred from standing by the party in the 2008 local elections. He said: ‘This was because I refused to accept a written warning for abstaining on a vote in Full Council – ironically about the Ricoh Arena.”

Brian added: “I always used to follow the City and went to most home games at Highfield Road.  I have also been to watch Coventry at the Ricoh.”

Brian went on to stand in Coventry in elections for the Liberal Democrats, and he stood for election to Parliament as an MP in the 2010 general election in Coventry South.

“Vote Them Out’ organisers the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign say the council elections are a unique opportunity for fans, voters and taxpayers to have their say. It is urging a united front among the majority of fans who believe all sides should be held to account for the disastrous dispute which led to the Sky Blues playing in Northampton.

It calls on anyone who cares about the Sky Blues’ threatened future to not only join the demonstration outside Coventry City Council in Earl Street, city centre, on Saturday, May 10, at 1pm – but to call councillors to account at the ballot box for their part in the crisis.

Both the council leader Ann Lucas (Holbrook) and deputy leader Phil Townshend (Lower Stoke) are standing this year, as are Conservatives who as an opposition group have supported the Labour council’s strategy.

Long-standing Coventry City fans Rob Stevens and Stuart Cosgrove, joint organisers of the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign, believe that while fans debate to what extent each party was responsible, most people blame all sides, and want all sides to be held to account. Most fans think the council and ACL are partly responsible – while the vast majority, above all else, want the club to return to the Ricoh whoever owns either.

Rob Stevens said: “We are delighted to announce that Brian Patton is standing for election, following our call for independent candidates to stand on a Get Cov Back To The Ricoh platform.

“He has been one of the most vocal critics of the council’s involvement in the stadium, which was only built because of the football club.

“We warned last October that the council ruling out an unencumbered sale of the Ricoh, and insisting that the club could only return as tenants, would leave our beloved Sky Blues playing ‘home’ games 35 miles away for years and years – threatening the club’s future.

“While the club’s owners Sisu must take a good part of the responsibility for that, most people accept the football club needs to own its own stadium to obtain vital commercial revenues. The Sky Blues’ future remains in doubt with £7million further losses last year recently announced. Liquidation remains a threat, whether or not the plan is to build a new stadium in Warwickshire would could take years. The club’s owners have repeatedly said they will not return as tenants, and will not sell the club before acquiring a stadium. For those fans who want rid of Sisu, combining the club and stadium would give Sisu an exit strategy.”

“The council is heavily Labour dominated and the Conservative opposition have supported councilllors’ and council officers’ strategy over the football club. Councillors have also mainly been sworn to secrecy, refusing to speak to fans, voters and taxpayers while hiding behind legal advice.

“This month’s elections are a chance for all voters to have their say on the dispute and demand more action to bring our club back to the council-owned stadium for next season, which was only built because of the football club.

“We are calling on fans to join the demonstration, and contact election candidates in their wards in a search for answers. If they are not satisfied with their councillors’ answers or actions whichever party they belong to, now is the chance to vote them out.

“There has been a lack of transparency and democratic accountability at Coventry City Council. We do not know how much council taxpayers’ money has been spent of legal and PR fees in the dispute; and our call in December at a council meeting with leader Ann Lucas for an economic impact survey into losing the club was ignored.

“We also want to call the Higgs charity to account and pressurise it to do the right thing in the interests of the club and city.”

Stuart Cosgrove said: “In October, we held a small demonstration at the Council House on a weekday lunchtime. It was never intended as a mass demonstration, but to present one of the largest petitions the council has ever received. The council leader Ann Lucas broke her silence at the council meeting that day and it lead to talks between her and Sisu’s Joy Seppala.

“This will be the first full demonstration during a weekend for us, when more people are available. We welcome all fans and people who care about the club’s future and want to see a Ricoh return next season, regardless or who owns the stadium or the club.

“If you only blame the club’s owners, this demonstration is not for you. We are not apologists for Sisu. They have made mistakes and we have publicly criticised them. We have supported other fans’ activities. But if you believe all sides should shoulder responsibility, now is the time to hold the council to account, whatever comes from the forthcoming Judicial Review, which may or may not move the situation forward.”

Vote Them Out

We’re launching a new campaign in time for the upcoming council elections. If you are interested in helping out, coming to the demonstration or even standing in the elections please get in touch. info@getcovbacktothericoh.org

Here is the press release that we’ve sent out today.

A FIRST major demonstration outside the Council House is among measures in a Coventry City fans’ “Vote Them Out” campaign launched today ahead of local elections on May 22, which seeks a return to the Ricoh Arena for next season.

The campaign calls for people to stand as candidates on a Get Cov Back To The Ricoh platform, with nominations opening this week.

In any event, fans are urged to question all parties’ candidates and vote against their councillor of whichever party – if they feel they or the council have not helped the club, and will not help the club in future.

Organisers the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign says the council elections are a unique opportunity for fans, voters and taxpayers to have their say. It is urging a united front among the majority of fans who believe all sides should be held to account for the disastrous dispute which led to the Sky Blues playing in Northampton.

It calls on anyone who cares about the Sky Blues’ threatened future to not only join the demonstration outside Coventry City Council in Earl Street, city centre, on Saturday, May 10, at 1pm – but to call councillors to account at the ballot box for their part in the crisis.

The campaign calls on anyone interested in standing in the local elections on a Get Cov Back To The Ricoh platform to step forward before close of nominations on April 24. Whether or not any individual stands, the campaign also urges voters to contact all parties’ candidates in their wards to ask what they would do to initiate a Ricoh return for next season. If they are not satisfied with the answers, they should use their vote accordingly.

Both the council leader Ann Lucas (Holbrook) and deputy leader Phil Townshend (Lower Stoke) are standing this year, as are Conservatives who as an opposition group have supported the Labour council’s strategy.

Important evidence of the council’s part in the dispute was heard at last week’s High Court hearing brought against Sky Blues’ owners Sisu by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity, the council’s partners in Ricoh Arena management company Arena Coventry Limited (ACL).

Mr Justice Leggatt ruled that private talks in 2012 over a sale to Sisu of the Higgs charity’s 50 per cent share of ACL collapsed because neither side could agree a price for the shares being offered at £5.5million – which was “very significantly above the market value”, according to emails written by council finance officer and ACL director Chris West. The judge also ruled the deal collapsed because the Higgs charity felt it would have been blocked by the council, where the ruling Labour group had “very considerable animosity” to the club’s owners, according to Mr West’s emails disclosed in court. The council instead devised a secret plan to take more control of the Ricoh and scupper any deal with Sisu.

The independent Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign – formed last October when over 1000 people signed a petition in a week to urge talks over a sale of the Ricoh Arena to whoever owns the club – maintains selling the Ricoh, based on independent valuations, remains the best prospect of a Sky Blues return to benefit the indebted club, the city’s economy and pride, and taxpayers. It could also represent the best possibility of Sisu ultimately selling the club once the club and stadium are united, believes GCBTR, which was set up to redress the balance in fans’ campaigning.

Last week’s High Court hearing shone a light for the first time on the main stumbling blocks in negotiations over the plan for joint council/club Ricoh ownership following an agreement in principle in June 2012 – which would have provided vital revenues for the loss-making club and make ACL debt-free. The Higgs Charity wanted £5.5million but was unhappy with an offer of £1.5million upfront and the rest paid in deferred payments over 10 years. Sisu later indicated it would be prepared to pay £2million following due diligence which it claimed showed the Higgs shares were worth nothing.

By August 2012, the court heard the council had devised a secret plan to prevent a deal with Sisu, by buying out ACL’s mortgage loan without Sisu’s involvement. Former ACL director Paul Harris swore under oath that Mr West, then an ACL director alongside council chief executive Martin Reeves, had told him Sisu had been informed of the council’s plan. Mr Harris had said that would be “ethical”. In fact, the club’s owners were not informed until after the deal was concluded by councillors in private on January 15, 2013.

Whether that £14million use of taxpayers’ money was lawful will be tested in a Judicial Review in June, after Mrs Justice Thirlwall ruled in December there was a case for the council to answer concerning misuse of public money. High Court documents showed the council’s own evaluation for the Ricoh was much less – at £6.4million.

ACL in March last year began High Court proceedings to place the club in administration over non-payment of rent, although the court heard circa. £850,000 of the £1.3million annual rent was received. Ten League points were lost at the start of administration; and club takeover attempts failed when bidders included ACL and private investors such as Preston Haskell IV who had been in discussions with the council. ACL later refused to sign a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to bring the club out of administration, resulting in a further 10 League points being lost this season.

Long-standing Coventry City fans Rob Stevens and Stuart Cosgrove, joint organisers of the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh campaign, believe that while fans debate to what extent each party was responsible, most people blame all sides. Most fans think the council and ACL are partly responsible – while the vast majority, above all else, want the club to return to the Ricoh whoever owns either.

Mr Stevens said: “We warned last October that the council ruling out an unencumbered sale of the Ricoh, and insisting that the club could only return as tenants, would leave our beloved Sky Blues playing ‘home’ games 35 miles away for years and years – threatening the club’s future.

“While Sisu must take a good part of the responsibility for that, most people accept the football club needs to own its own stadium to obtain vital commercial revenues. The Sky Blues’ future remains in doubt with £7million further losses last year recently announced. Liquidation remains a threat, whether or not the plan is to build a new stadium in Warwickshire would could take years. The club’s owners have repeatedly said they will not return as tenants, and will not sell the club before acquiring a stadium.

“The council is heavily Labour dominated and the Conservative opposition have supported councilllors’ and council officers’ strategy over the football club. Councillors have also mainly been sworn to secrecy, refusing to speak to fans, voters and taxpayers while hiding behind legal advice.

“This month’s elections are a chance for all voters to have their say on the dispute and demand more action to bring our club back to the council-owned stadium for next season, which was only built because of the football club.

“We are calling on fans to join the demonstration, and contact election candidates in their wards in a search for answers. If they are not satisfied with their councillors’ answers or actions whichever party they belong to, now is the chance to vote them out.

“There has been a lack of transparency and democratic accountability at Coventry City Council. We do not know how much council taxpayers’ money has been spent of legal and PR fees in the dispute; and our call in December at a council meeting with leader Ann Lucas for an economic impact survey into losing the club was ignored.

“We also want the Higgs charity to do the right thing in the interests of the club and city.”

Stuart Cosgrove said: “In October, we held a small demonstration at the Council House on a weekday lunchtime. It was never intended as a mass demonstration, but to present one of the largest petitions the council has ever received. The council leader Ann Lucas broke her silence at the council meeting that day and it lead to talks between her and Sisu’s Joy Seppala.

“This will be the first full demonstration during a weekend for us, when more people are available. We welcome all fans and people who care about the club’s future and want to see a Ricoh return next season, regardless or who owns the stadium or the club.

“If you only blame the club’s owners, this demonstration is not for you. We are not apologists for Sisu. They have made mistakes and we have publicly criticised them. We have supported other fans’ activities. But if you believe all sides should shoulder responsibility, now is the time to hold the council to account, whatever comes from the forthcoming Judicial Review, which may or may not move the situation forward.”