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Sisu takes Ricoh Arena battle to European Commission

Sisu, which owns English League One football club Coventry City, is taking its complaint over the sale of the Ricoh Arena to Premiership rugby club Wasps to the European Commission, amid a breakdown in talks between the two teams over City’s stay at the stadium.

In a statement reported by the Coventry Telegraph, Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood said that “the ball was back in the court” of Sisu after conditions to enter into discussions had “not been met”.

Sisu has been campaigning against the 2014 deal between Coventry City Council and Wasps, which made the club the owner of the Ricoh Arena and the council the stadium’s freeholder. Wasps moved from London to Coventry as part of the deal, which saw Coventry City assume tenant status at the 32,753-seat venue it has played at since 2005.

Sisu has argued that Coventry City Council undervalued the Ricoh Arena by £28m (€32m/$36m) when the stadium was sold to Wasps in a £19m deal. BBC Coventry and Warwickshire has now reported that Sisu has asked the European Commission to investigate whether the deal breaks state-aid rules.

It comes after the Supreme Court last month rejected Sisu’s latest appeal over the sale of the Ricoh Arena. The decision prompted Coventry City Council and Wasps to call on Sisu to end its legal action.

The Supreme Court refused to overturn last year’s High Court decision not to permit a full judicial review into the matter by Sisu companies including Otium Entertainment and Sky Blue Sports & Leisure.

English Football League (EFL) clubs are due to meet on May 29 to discuss the matter and Coventry’s place in the league is at risk if it is unable to guarantee where it will play next season. The club’s lease to play at Ricoh Arena expired at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Sisu said in March that it would end its legal action against the council if it receives support to build a new stadium for the club.

Eastwood added: “As everyone knows, we have consistently maintained over a long period of time that we were happy to sit down with Coventry City to reach agreement over their future at the Ricoh Arena, once the club’s owners had agreed to cease all legal action or proceedings surrounding our acquisition and ownership of the Ricoh Arena.

“As reported by both parties recently, we entered such discussions in good faith, based on that principle. However, we have now been made aware of this complaint to the EU Commission and understand that it was filed in February, well before the discussions set out above were commenced.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, the club said: “Coventry City Football Club has no comment to make at this time regarding media reports overnight. Talks continue with Wasps Holdings Limited regarding extending our tenancy at the Ricoh Arena.”

Image: Ricoh Arena