The Sky Blue Trust notes the announcement that Chris Anderson has vacated his position as Managing Director and Executive Vice-Chairman of Coventry City. We wish Mr Anderson all the best for the future.
It is perhaps an unfortunate co-incidence that this news comes with Coventry City languishing at the very foot of League One. When Anderson replaced Steve Waggott on the club board, the team sat at the top of the League One table with high hopes for promotion to the Championship. To have fallen so spectacularly in fortunes during Mr Anderson’s tenure is causing dismay and anger among fans. The club we love is in crisis.
During this time, the squad has been severely depleted both in quantity and quality of players. We intend no denigration of the current young team but the impact from the loss of contracted players such as James Maddison, John Fleck, Romain Vincelot, Aaron Martin as well as the departure of some excellent loans signings last season, is plain to see in the performances and results this term. No wonder that Saturday’s crowd was less than 9,000 and it would be surprising if the next home game against AFC Wimbledon is not even worse, barring a miraculous return to success on the trip to Gillingham.
Off the pitch, the situation is no better. We face the loss of the Academy, a prized asset of the club. The arrangement with Wasps / ACL to play matches at the Ricoh has less than two seasons to run and talks have stalled over an extension. There is no substantive news on an alternative ground within (or close to) the city boundaries, with the proposal to ground share at Butts Park Arena seemingly at a dead-end.
The Trust calls upon the Board of Coventry City to make an early announcement of a recovery plan for the club, covering issues both on and off the pitch. We expect this plan to be quantifiable and deliverable. In the close season, based on promises made by the club management, around 5,500 supporters were persuaded to invest in season tickets for the current season. The return on their investment to date in 4 home league games has been 1 goal and 4 points which is simply unacceptable. All Sky Blues supporters deserve far better.
In other circumstances, there might have been a clamour for the Manager to be replaced. However, the Trust and most fans recognise that the fault lies to a large degree beyond Tony Mowbray’s control, in the Board Room and with the owners. Sisu have been stewards of Coventry City since 2007 during which time the state of the club has declined appallingly, with only brief interludes to lighten the gloom. Tim Fisher has been a director since 2012, Chairman for much of this time and his tenure has been little short of disastrous.
Therefore, unless the current Directors with support from the owners are prepared to bring forward a convincing strategy to turn around the fortunes of Coventry City, we call upon Mr Fisher to resign with immediate effect and for Sisu to put the club up for sale by auction.
Trust members and other supporters generally are no longer prepared to tolerate a regime of failure and mediocrity.
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.Write comment (0 Comments)
The Sky Blue Trust welcomes the news that Coventry City are willing to discuss, without any apparent preconditions, the future of the Club’s Academy with Coventry Sports Foundation, who run the Alan Higgs Centre, and Wasps, who are planning to build an indoor pitch at the centre.
The groundwork the Trust did, by holding discussions with the Football League and both of the potential facilities suppliers, showed that the survival of the Academy, predominately based at the Higgs, is possible but it needs all parties to work together on a collaborative plan, that can then be presented to the football authorities for approval. It may involve the inclusion of some facilities from other suppliers, such as Warwick University, who have indicated to the Trust they would be willing to discuss these with the Club but the bulk of the Academy could stay at its present site.
It now needs the Club to take the lead on this matter and get the matter resolved as soon as possible.
The involvement of Sport England, whilst welcome, is not strictly necessary, as their role is to oversee community sport in general and not really the preservation of a professional football club’s elite academy. However, if it helps get things resolved in a more timely fashion, we welcome it.
What is less welcome is the current stated attitude of Coventry City Council. Whilst their ire with the Club’s owners, SISU, over continuing costly and pointless legal wrangling is understandable, the demands for payment for costs that have not been awarded as a precondition of any co-operation are best described as unhelpful. At a time when the Trust is striving to bring all parties together to save the Academy, this attitude is unnecessary and a distraction at this delicate yet vital juncture.
The Council’s anger with the Club’s current owners is justifiable. However, one day these owners, like any owners, will move on. The Trust’s concern is, once this happens, what will be the state of the club they leave behind? The Academy is vital for this club’s survival, no matter who the owners are and it needs saving now, otherwise it could be lost forever. Those that have it in their power to facilitate this survival must co-operate and do so.
The Council is not directly involved in this process and therefore needs to stop unwelcome commentary until this matter is resolved for the good of the football club’s future survival and, thereby, for the good of its supporters.