Stuart Cosgrove & Rob Stevens met with CCFC owner Joy Seppala and we’re publishing this press release and will be happy to answer questions on our Twitter, Facebook or a thread on the Sky Blues Talk forum.
Sisu’s Joy Seppala says Coventry City Football Club will not “interfere” with any talks over a sale of the Ricoh Arena to rugby club London Wasps.
She added neither she nor the club had received any contact from the stadium’s management company Arena Coventry Limited or its half-owners Coventry City Council, which also owns the Ricoh freehold.
Speaking for the first time about the controversial Wasps proposal, she told the Get Cov Back To The Ricoh fans’ group: “We will not interfere with any deal between Wasps and Arena Coventry Limited regarding the Ricoh.” She said one of many hurdles to any prospect of a Ricoh deal had been ACL’s contract with private firm Compass and the joint venture IEC, which had made an upfront payment to ACL in return for the Ricoh’s revenues from catering sales.
“We don’t want to be distracted from what really matters to us, to the club and to the fans. We are focusing all of our efforts on making this season a great one for CCFC and securing our future.”
Unconfirmed reports are that the proposed deal with London Wasps would see the council retain a 10 per cent stake in ACL, with a Wasps consortium buying a 90 per cent stake. The deal is expected to be discussed by councillors in private session at a full council meeting at Coventry council house on Tuesday.
Ms Seppala added there remained “long term investment plans” for the Coventry City football club, and “long-term investors” backing plans for a new stadium. Property consultants are actively working to secure a site that would include the commercial development potential around it. The long-term aim is for the new stadium to help maximise income for the team from stadium revenues.
She said: “We are moving on with our new stadium plans because the club needs access to revenues 365 days a year. You can’t build a new stadium overnight and we are happy to be back at the Ricoh Arena while we develop our plans for a new permanent home for CCFC.”
Of team manager Steven Pressley, she said: “Steven’s in it for the long term and is part of our plan for a sustainable football business model.”
On Wednesday in London, Get Cov Back To The Ricoh’s Rob Stevens and Stuart Cosgrove met the owner of the hedge fund/private equity group of companies which have funded the club since a takeover in 2007, and to which around £40million of club debt is said to be owed.
GCBTTR, in line with many fans’ wishes, called on Ms Seppala to state whether she still had any potential interest in owning the Ricoh Arena and, if so, to express an interest to the shareholders of ACL – Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity.
GCBTTR has maintained the vast majority of Coventry City fans want the club to play and stay at the Ricoh Arena, and the campaign has since its birth in October last year been calling for a permanent resolution, with a deal to end the instability threatening the club’s future.
More than a year on from when the club first announced it was intending to build a new stadium in the Coventry area outside the city boundary, there is still no news on where it might be, whether land can be secured, and whether it could encounter further problems with funding and planning permission.
It has long been considered that the council and the Higgs charity, who have equality split the shareholding in the Ricoh since shortly after its inception in 2003, would want around £30million for the stadium. Unconfirmed reports are the Wasps deal is based on a similar figure. Sisu has argued that ACL was worth nothing, but that Sisu had been prepared to pay around £2million for the Higgs share in 2012, while the charity wanted the £6.5million it is supposed to have purchased its share for.
Ms Seppala also said the club would continue to pursue its hope to be granted leave to appeal against June’s Judicial Review judgment, which rejected Sisu’s case that a £14.4million council buyout of ACL’s mortgage was an unlawful use of taxpayers’ money. She said there was still no clear timescale for the continuing legal action, which ACL appears to be citing as one reason for not engaging with the club over a potential deal.
The High Court judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, ruled Sisu had sought to distress ACL to acquire it for as cheap a price as possible, after the unlawful non-payment of rent which the club and many fans deemed to be too high at £1.3million, particularly after the club’s relegation to League One in 2012.
Ms Seppala said: “I do not want to go down as someone who distresses companies. I restructure businesses that are already distressed. I have acted in good faith, and I have an honest reputation.
“We are here for the long-term and want to build a sustainable club. We have worked hard and invested a great deal to put the Club back on a secure financial footing. Thanks to a great deal of effort and some tough decisions, the club is breaking even for the first time in many years.”
Stuart Cosgrove said: “We urged Joy to make clear at this late stage whether there was any hope that a Ricoh sale has privately remained at least one option for the club. Her answer is clear in saying that a new stadium makes more sense.”
Rob Stevens said: “We echo many fans’ call on the council and Higgs to act in the interests of the city by at least matching the offer to Wasps to the club’s owners. They should not rush the Wasps deal through. We have said they should ‘give peace a chance’ after last month’s temporary Ricoh return on a rent deal, with a view to selling the stadium to the club it was built for with money from other sources.”
We and many fans clearly believe the council and Higgs have expected far too much money for the Ricoh –way above independent valuations. They should act in the long-term interests of the city, not simply sell to the highest bidder. We have always maintained since we were set up, to redress the balance in fans’ campaigning, that the city losing a proud asset of its historic football club would be damaging for the city’s economy, pride and reputation. A thousand people in a week singed our petition last October that echoed those sentiments.
“We staged two demonstrations outside the Council House. Fans independently are calling on Internet forums for a similar demonstration on Tuesday, and we support that call.”
The fans demonstration is planned for Tuesday 7th October at the Council House in Coventry and Get Cov Back to the Ricoh is calling on all football and rugby fans as well as concerned residents to come along and protest moves to sell the Ricoh Arena to Wasps.