The mood among many Coventry supporters is not Sky Blue but black – a threadbare squad, no league wins, a humiliation in the EFL cup, an impasse on the future of the clubs vital Academy, no progress on talks about staying at the Ricoh, the seeming dead-end of the proposed move to the Butts, yet another hollow statement about an alternative stadium site, is it any wonder that fans are voicing their frustrations by direct action?
This once proud club has under SISU’s ownership slipped down the leagues and currently lies in the relegation zone of the Third Division. Tuesday’s cup humiliation against Norwich’s reserve team show just how far we have fallen and emphasised the gulf between similar sized clubs. One has owners who care and invest and one has owners who are dispassionate and selfish. Young players have been developed, only to be sold, allegedly for millions, yet there are little or no signs of any real investment on the pitch. Supporters are constantly being told that we have a competitive budget yet the evidence on the field and of the lack of quality and depth in the current squad seems to point at something different.
A litany of broken promises, empty rhetoric and abject failure both on and off the pitch is SISU’s legacy. A legacy that has led to the loss of any possibility of ownership of the Ricoh, the very real prospect of having no Academy and a team that is struggling to be competitive against teams such as Fleetwood and Bury in the third tier of English football.
The emergence in recent weeks of various protest groups demanding that our owners either do more or leave are totally understandable and even laudable and, if peaceful, a good way of releasing some of the pent up frustration many feel. However protests like this are ultimately futile because for them to have any effect our owners would actually have to have some positive feelings about the club and its loyal fans. There is precious little evidence of this. It appears that to SISU Coventry City are just an irritating red entry on a spreadsheet. They appear to be more interested in paying lawyers than players. More ongoing, costly, antagonistic legal proceedings against the very people that they should be forming alliances with, not fighting futile battles with, may in some unfathomable way be good for SISU but is hurting the club badly. All those who have the power to positively affect the future of the club are alienated and at loggerheads with the club or simply refusing to get involved.
The news from the club that they were willing to start round the table discussions with Coventry Sports Foundation and Wasps about keeping the bulk of the Academy at the Higgs Centre is one small glimmer of hope but actions will speak louder than words and we still await any positive movement on that front.
The involvement of local MP’s in trying to break the impasse on the stadium situation is welcome as anything that helps put pressure on all sides to get a long term solution on this key issue can only be a good thing. The pathetic, hand washing attitude of the Football League is no surprise. They were completely impotent during the lamentable moving of the club to Northampton and their attitude now is a worrying mirror of those days.
The constant current rhetoric from the club about being “forced” out of the City is untrue, unwarranted and unsettling. It appears as if they are building up a case for moving the club out of Coventry again and the over aggressive attitude of the council is playing right into SISU’s lawyer’s hands. Superficially the “evidence” that would be presented to show that the club is being forced out is compelling and would include:
- number of sites already considered, with FL involvement but nothing suitable
- CCC blocking proposed partnership at new site in city that FL liked
- Current landlord not willing to engage in talks
- CCC policy favouring Rugby and swimming
- CCC not dealing with club because of legal matters going on that are not the clubs
- unable to negotiate longer Academy deal because of council connected management company
- a perceived conspiracy against the club
Whilst it wouldn’t take much work to pick apart these alarmist headlines and expose the truth we know from bitter experience that the Football League are ineffective and will take everything the club tell them at face value. They will not dig down to find the reality behind these statements and show them up to be hollow and baseless. All they care about is getting fixtures fulfilled and certainly wouldn’t want to risk upsetting SISU’s lawyers. To the Football League not caring about fans is standard practice but costly legal cases are another matter entirely.
If this is the case then the future of the club is grim – the fans showed three years ago they would not support such a move and there is no reason to expect a different attitude today. No fans, no income, inevitable bankruptcy, closure of club, then SISU suing the council for loss of business. The legals would go on interminably while our club becomes a footnote in football history.
Again our football club is being used in a power struggle between our owners and our council. The collateral damage could well be terminal as neither side appears to actually give a damn about the club or its supporters. Whilst they threaten each other, posture and play their pathetic legal games our club is dying a slow yet increasingly inevitable death.
The Trust once again calls upon SISU to drop all the pointless, fruitless and expensive legal actions. We call upon SISU to either start proper investment in the club or put it up for sale at a price that reflects the club’s assets and without the encumbrance of the debt their inept stewardship has created. The Trust would be willing to work with SISU to develop a supporter ownership model if it would hasten their exit from our club.
We call upon the council and Wasps to commit to work with the club, whoever the owners are, once all legal actions cease and a realistic plan for the future of the club is published. The council must realise the value of a successful football club to the local economy and we would urge them to be prepared to work with the club for the good of the fans and the city.
The supporters have had their beloved club battered, abused and exploited by too many factions and the very visible current frustrations will only build unless some positive actions start happening immediately.