League One football club Coventry City has said it has a groundshare agreement in place should it fail to reach a deal to remain at the Ricoh Arena, claiming that this ends any fears it may be expelled from the English Football League (EFL).
The news comes as the latest development in a long-running battle between City’s owners, Sisu, and Wasps Holdings Limited, parent company of Premiership rugby union club Wasps and owner of the Ricoh Arena.
In a club statement, City declined to identify the location of its potential new home, but it is widely reported to be St Andrews (pictured), the stadium which hosts Championship football club Birmingham City. EFL clubs were due to meet tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the matter, with Coventry’s place in the league at risk if it is unable to guarantee where it will play next season.
The club said in its statement: “Coventry City can confirm that the planned English Football League EGM and vote regarding the club’s place in the EFL has now been cancelled. This is because the club has met the EFL’s criteria regarding ensuring a venue for matches next season and the ability to fulfil fixtures, by now having a groundshare venue and agreement in place.
“This groundshare is in place to make sure the club has somewhere to play in the scenario of a deal to play at the Ricoh Arena not being agreed. We can confirm that talks with the aim to achieve a deal to play at the Ricoh Arena are continuing between Coventry City Football Club, its owners Sisu and Wasps Holdings Limited.
“Our focus and desire is to agree a deal at the Ricoh Arena – this is everyone’s preferred option, and the right option for Coventry City. While the backup of a groundshare exists to ensure the future of the football club continues, another groundshare is not something anyone wants to happen. Details of the agreed groundshare and of our ongoing discussions with Wasps Holdings Limited remain confidential, due to mutually signed confidentiality agreements.”
It emerged earlier this month that Sisu had taken its complaint over the sale of the Ricoh Arena to Wasps to the European Commission over claims the deal broke state aid rules. 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, barring the 2013-14 season groundsharing with Northampton Town amid another stadium dispute.
Sisu has argued that Coventry City Council undervalued the Ricoh Arena by £28m (€31.7m/$35.5m) when the stadium was sold to Wasps in a £19m deal. This came 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 club’s lease to play at Ricoh Arena expired at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Image: Birmingham City FC