The Trust has today written to the Chair and members of Coventry City Council's Planning committee about the planning proposals submitted by Wasps Rugby Club for facilities at the Alan Higgs Centre, currently used by the CCFC Academy.
This is the letter:
Dear Cllr Brown
The Sky Blue Trust represents 3000 Coventry City Supporters and we are writing to you as Chairman of the Planning Committee on their behalf.
You are shortly due to be making a decision on whether to grant planning permission for Wasps rugby club to build a new training facility at the Alan Higgs Centre on Allard Way and we would urge you to take the following points into consideration before making any irrevocable and potentially damaging decision.
The building of Wasps academy and specifically the indoor “kicking barn” will have a direct effect on the incumbent academy currently housed at the centre, the academy of the City’s football team, Coventry City. The barn will displace the current outdoor 3G pitch which the football club uses but also the subsequent loss of two other pitches threatens the cherished and valuable Category 2 status of the Sky Blues academy. When this is added to the much rumoured council and Coventry Sports Foundation plan to build an indoor swimming pool on the CCFC academy’s current indoor pitch it makes their position at the centre almost impossible.
The football clubs academy has produced many top class footballers from the City who have gone on to enjoy major success as professionals. The list is long and illustrious but a simple list does not convey what the academy offers to young footballers in Coventry. It is the chance to fulfil a dream, to play for their home town club, to represent their/our/your City across the globe, promoting the name of Coventry and giving themselves the chance of a career they might not otherwise have had. The academy gives youngsters across Coventry that rare commodity - hope.
Should the club lose their Category 2 status. or lose the academy all together, it would be a tragedy because the Football does not allow the establishment of these academies easily. Once lost it might never be regained and it would be the young footballers of the area and the supporters of Coventry City who would suffer. Club owners come and go but supporters will always be there and they will remember those who helped and those who hurt their football team.
The provision for the Wasps' academy directly threatens this “factory of hope” and we and our 3000 members, many of whom are also voters, urge you to reject the planning application until a proper plan is put into place for the football clubs academy to remain in its current home.
The original purpose of the Higgs Centre was to house the football clubs academy. Alan Higgs was a great patron of the club and also a true benefactor to the youth of Coventry, The academy was built for the club and also for the community. For it to be granted academy status, a decade ago, a joint delegation from the club and the Higgs Centre went to the football authorities to plead their case. After what we have been told was a close call the argument that the centre would be better serving the community and the football team swung the argument. Ironically the final decision was made by the then Aston Villa Chairman Doug Ellis to grant academy status. It was this cooperative strategy that we wish all parties to adopt again and work together to find a solution that would suit all parties.
Whilst the requirements for a football academy are spelt out in black and white by the FA and Football League as fans of Coventry City know all too well, all rules of the footballing authorities have a good deal of flexibility in them. If all the relevant parties (CCFC, Wasps, CSF) and maybe some other parties such as Coventry City Council or Warwick University work together a solution could be found. However if this planning application, in its current format is approved it will not allow sufficient time for any compromise plans to be discussed, agreed and enacted.
We therefore urge you and your fellow committee members to reject the Wasps application until a satisfactory long term solution is found for the Coventry City academy.