The English Football League has said it would be willing to engage with key stakeholders to help a quicker return to Coventry for the Sky Blues.

 

The football club left Coventry to play in Birmingham during the summer of 2019 after a dispute with stadium owners, Wasps Rugby Club.

 

Since then, the Sky Blues Trust, which represents more than 2,700 members, has been encouraging stakeholders to find common ground to bring the club back to its home city.

 

Following meetings with Coventry City Council and Wasps, Trust representatives met with the EFL in London.

 

A league spokesman reiterated that the EFL wished to see the club playing its matches in the Coventry area.  

 

He stated that the League was in regular dialogue with the football club about a return to the city, which included the club’s plans for a new stadium. 

 

Following updates from the Trust, the EFL indicated a willingness to engage further with any of the other main parties if it was felt that this would help achieve a quicker return to Coventry.

 

The city council, Wasps and the EFL demanded confidentiality as a pre-requisite before all meetings but agreed to go public on certain issues.

 

Consequently, it has emerged that Wasps would welcome further dialogue with Coventry City about a return to the Ricoh Arena - meanwhile, the city council has discussed three specific sites with the football club’s agents with regard to a potential new stadium.

 

The Trust is the only fan group which has engaged with all stakeholders with the intent of opening the doors to bring CCFC back to Coventry and informing supporters of the reality of new stadium discussions.

 

The only stakeholders refusing to speak to the Trust are Coventry City Football Club and its owners.

 

They believe that a supporters’ forum is the best way of passing on information. However, that forum has met only twice this season and is not meeting again until April.

 

Meanwhile, the future of Coventry City remains unclear.

 

It is the Trust’s conviction that bringing the club back to Coventry, particularly while it is so successful on the pitch, would engage thousands of supporters who are not attending matches in Birmingham.

 

This could only be good for the club’s current finances and, just as importantly, entice more young fans to go along to games and have Coventry City in their blood.

 

Bizarrely, it has been suggested by the club and some supporters, that the Trust is trying to damage the club.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Every member of our board has supported Coventry City for more than 20 years and some have been fans for more than 50.

 

We want our club to be back where we belong – in the Coventry and the higher echelons of English football.

 

However, we believe that supporter involvement is essential to the future of the club going forward and lack of transparency is detrimental to that.

 

Consequently, we would be delighted if the club offered a clear plan forward.

 

However, while that is not emerging, we will continue to work, as volunteers, to try to assist in finding a solution to the current impasse.

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Following the exile of our beloved Coventry City to Birmingham, The Sky Blue Trust has been forced to focus on one priority – bringing the club back home.

 

To that end, we have requested meetings with key stakeholders to hear, on the fans’ behalf, the answers directly from those involved.

 

Following our meeting with Wasps’ Nick Eastwood, we were grateful that the rugby club made public its stance on relations with CCFC, insisting it wanted football to return to the Ricoh.

 

Meanwhile, an equally frank conversation was held with Coventry City Council and, as a result, we are able to publish unedited questions and answers surrounding a potential return for CCFC and potential impediments.

 

The Sky Blue Trust will be meeting senior representatives from the English Football League in December.

 

We have renewed our requests for a meeting are Coventry City Football Club and its owners, Sisu so we can understand their position. We would hope they, like us and the EFL, they would be committed to bringing the Sky Blues back home.

 

Let nobody pretend that being in Birmingham is anything but incredibly damaging to the future of the Sky Blues.

 

 

That is why we are leaving no stone unturned in our attempt to bring people together with the goal of City returning to Coventry. In the meantime, it is important that fans understand any progress or otherwise.

 

So, these are the answers from Coventry City Council to specific questions. 

 

Could you tell us if you have had meetings with representatives of Coventry City or their owners over future stadium plans in and around Coventry?

 

City Council officers have had meetings with land agents of the football club/SISU to provide pre-application advice in respect of one site that had been identified.

 

Have you spoken to them about specific sites?

 

The City Council has consistently advised the football club/SISU and their land agents about the need to undertake a comprehensive site selection exercise to look at alternative sites given some of the challenges with the site they had identified as being of potential interest. At a recent meeting, City Council officers, to try and assist, provided a couple of examples of sites that CCFC may wish to explore further as part of any site selection exercise.

 

How many sites have been part of those conversations?

 

3

 

What are the locations of those sites?

 

The discussions have been very preliminary about possible options that a developer may want to explore and are not at a stage when any indication of where they are would be appropriate to share.

 

Have you selected specific members of staff to handle their inquiries? If so, do they have a history of dealing with the owners or the club previously?

 

Senior City Council officers with expertise in planning and development have been liaising with the football clubs agents. These officers have had no involvement in the ongoing litigation.

 

What is the state of the litigation in the European court?

 

The City Council responded to the Government request for information in May 2019 and has received no further correspondence to date.

 

What would happen to that litigation in the event of Brexit?

 

This is unclear and would be speculation at this stage

 

Is it your belief that there is an opportunity for CCFC to return to the Ricoh?

 

Yes, it is our belief that CCFC could and should return to the Ricoh and whilst we can advocate for that solution we have no ability in influencing any action of CCFC and their owners.

 

If so, what is the basis of that belief?

 

There is a stadium that can accommodate them and they should be playing in the city. The only barrier we can see is the willingness of the owners to accept and negotiate an agreement to do so.

 

Are you prepared to have further discussions with the key stakeholders to enable CCFC to return to Coventry?

 

Yes 

 

Are you taking any proactive steps to attempt to bring CCFC back to Coventry?

 

We are open to any suggestion as to how we can help and facilitate a return. CCFC owners have had an explicit aim for some time now to build and occupy their own stadium in Coventry. As you can see from our previous answers, the City Council has been supportive and indeed proactive in this search whilst of course still preferring for CCFC to return to the Ricoh Arena.

 

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In a little over four weeks millions of football fans will head out to cast their vote in December’s General Election – and the main political parties will be publishing manifestos including policies which could affect football.

With that in mind the FSA has pulled together some core campaign ideas and asked all the major political parties whether they support The Fans’ Manifesto.

The FSA does not favour one political party over another and football fans come from all walks of society. That means supporters can have wildly different views but we do think every fan should be informed and we aim to help with that. It’s then up to each fan where they put their X.

The Fans’ Manifesto:

Grassroots – Share the wealth

At a time when there is more money in and around football than ever before we should be enjoying a golden age of grassroots football. No local club or school team should have to endure crumbling infrastructure or lack of funds to encourage participation and develop tomorrow’s star players. The FSA wants to see more of the wealth of football – and of those like agents and betting companies who live off it – used to support the base of the game.
Standing – Stand Up for Choice

The existing legislation which aims to stop supporters standing at the game is deeply unpopular and should be scrapped. We believe there are different mixes of stewarding approaches and standing technologies which clubs can use to manage fans standing at football and it should be up to each club, in conjunction with its supporters and the local Safety Advisory Group, to develop appropriate stadium plans based on sound and rigorous risk assessment. The FSA believes clubs and fans should be empowered to work together to decide what mix of standing and seated areas is right for them.
Transport – Flexible football rail tickets

Supporters travel the length and breadth of the country following their club, often at great expense, while working around last-minute changes to games due to TV demands or football schedule clashes. The introduction of an affordable and flexible rail ticket which is tied to a game, rather than a date, could reduce costs for fans and generate new revenue for train operators at times which are often outside peak hours. The Premier League and EFL support this concept: the FSA calls on government to make it happen.
Governance and regulation – Protect our pyramid and heritage

Football is our biggest cultural expression of community identity and no other country exhibits such depth of support for clubs from the top to the bottom of the pyramid, yet this heritage can be at the mercy of unscrupulous and incompetent owners. The football authorities must be required to establish an independent process of regulation for professional clubs with a tougher Owners and Directors Test, increased financial transparency, and a requirement of owners to exercise proper stewardship over clubs, all in close co-operation with supporters’ organisations.
Equality – No to discrimination

A commitment to diversity and inclusion underpins all of the FSA’s activity and we oppose all forms of discrimination or violence in relation to football. To this end, we call for a real engagement and investment in promoting inclusion and combatting discrimination in football. The Football (Offences) Act should be extended so that it is not limited to ‘racialist or indecent chanting’ but includes all protected characteristics from the Equality Act.

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