Coventry City playing at St Andrews again – this is a disaster. How can two businesses who have common financial and other interests in having Coventry City play in the City of Coventry fail to come to an agreement on a matter of huge personal and cultural concern not only to their ‘customers’ but the wider population of the City and beyond?
The contradictory statements of both Wasps and CCFC agree on one thing - that a deal that was mutually beneficial commercially was on the cards. The rest of the potential deal is clouded in mystery and protected by a Non Disclosure Agreement.
Despite CCFC's insistence that they did and Wasps insistence that they did not, did Wasps require some form of guarantee against potential losses from SISU's European action against Coventry City Council?
Or demand that in return for a rental agreement SISU gives up the rights that they have under the law no matter what arises in the future?
If so we know the arguments here. In the event that the European courts were to find in SISU's favour in the matter of the Complaint, doubtless after rounds of Appeals, this would be years down the line and the judgement would not in any case be affected by where Coventry City FC are playing. And a requirement to give up legal rights in the event of unknown and unknowable future issues arising would be totally unreasonable and irrational.
As we have long argued, the financial and reputational benefits to Wasps of letting the City play at the Ricoh are immense, and the broader costs to them of being seen as the party who have forced the Sky Blues out of the City - because that's many how people will see it - will be heavy.
But if Wasps did not make such demands this time round, what have SISU to gain from apparently walking out on the negotiations?
Not short term financial gain, save the immediate sale of season tickets - it is inconceivable that Coventry City are better off from a commercial point of view at St Andrews at this time, which begs the question what are SISU's longer term interests? Creating pressure - making the Ricoh a cheap empty stadium and increasing the pressure on Wasps in these Covid-19 affected financial times?
So the question is, with the possibility of the Warwick University arrangement and all the opportunities that that arrangement might potentially bring, why would the football club walk away from a short term mutually beneficial deal at the Ricoh arena at this time?
In the absence of answers to all of these questions, what then is to be done?
Demonstrations and protests may vent the anger and frustration that so many City fans feel if they were to be well supported and there was agreement about at whom and where they were to be targeted. But surely there has to be a role for the "third-party" Coventry City Council here. Subsequent to leasing the Ricoh to Wasps, the Council have been extremely reluctant to take any role in matters to do with SISU and the stadium, or, indeed, Wasps. Given that they have been the subject of two failed Judicial Reviews and an EU complaint brought by SISU, and are responsible for planning matters to do with a new stadium in Coventry (if that idea has not now been superceded), the Council's reticence is in some ways understandable. However,as we have put to the council in meetings in the past, this is no longer accepatable when the very future of CCFC is at stake. Councils have wider responsibilities than dustbins and taxes - they have the duty and powers to foster and enhance the well being of their communities. Coventry City FC is an integral part of the community and culture of our city. The Ricoh is a publicly owned asset, albeit currently leased to a private company, and would revert to the Council in the event of the lease being broken or the current encumbent wanting to leave. In the end, the stadium is effectivelty ours.
Nobody seriously expects the Council to tear up the leasing agreement with Wasps. What it is not unreasonable to expect, though, is that the City Council raise serious questions about whether that stadium is being used to the detriment of one of our city's major cultural institutions. The people of Coventry, and City fans in particular, may well be completely fed up with the strategies and actions of the Club's owners and the intransegence of Wasps. What they are not fed up with is Coventry City Football Club. The Club is of vital importance still to the people of Coventry and that fact alone justifies intervention by the community's representatives into this damaging and destructive affair. The people of Coventry expect and deserve nothing less.