The English Football League (EFL) has today (Friday) “reluctantly agreed” to a groundshare arrangement between Coventry City and Birmingham City at the latter’s St Andrew’s stadium for next season.
The announcement comes after discussions to keep Coventry in its home city at the Ricoh Arena did not reach the desired conclusion. The EFL said today that its board was faced with the prospect of Coventry not being able to fulfil its fixtures for the 2019-20 season, which would have called into question the club’s continued EFL membership.
As a result, the EFL has agreed to a groundshare deal between the League One club and Championship team Birmingham. St Andrew’s has a capacity of 29,000, compared to the Ricoh Arena’s 32,000.
The decision has been taken amid a long-running battle between Sisu, which owns Coventry, and Wasps Holdings Limited, the parent company of Premiership rugby union club Wasps and owner of the Ricoh Arena.
Sisu has argued that Coventry City Council undervalued the sale of the Ricoh Arena to Wasps by £28m (€31.5m/$35.7m). It emerged last month that Sisu had taken its complaint over the sale of the stadium to the European Commission over claims the deal broke state aid rules.
Wasps moved from London to Coventry as part of the Ricoh Arena deal, which saw the football club assume tenant status at the venue it has played at since 2005. Coventry also spent the 2013-14 season groundsharing with Northampton Town amid another stadium dispute.
The EFL said in a statement: “This is a decision that has not been taken lightly and it is regrettable that the parties involved have been unable to find a suitable and sensible solution. The EFL Board calls on all parties to resolve this matter at the earliest convenience for the benefit of the City of Coventry, the club and people living in the local community.
“A number of conditions have been placed on the club to ensure progress is made in regard to finding a solution to getting the club back playing in Coventry at the earliest opportunity including the payment of a £1m bond and a quarterly review in order for the Board to be updated on developments ahead of season 2020-21.”
Coventry said in a statement that it is “incredibly disappointed and extremely frustrated” that continuing differences between Sisu, Wasps and Coventry City Council could not be set aside for a deal to play the club’s games at Ricoh Arena.
Birmingham said it has “every sympathy” for Coventry’s plight, adding in a statement: “Birmingham City has been in talks with Coventry City for a number of weeks about the groundshare and we always felt it important to try and help and support our neighbours, as part of the wider footballing family in this region, however we could.
“We will work closely with Coventry City to ensure the matchday experience at the St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium is as enjoyable and welcoming as possible in the coming season.”
Image: Birmingham City FC