English Championship club Coventry City and Premiership rugby union team Wasps have today (Wednesday) ended the period of enmity between the two organisations with an agreement for the football team to return to the Ricoh Arena.
The two parties have signed a 10-year license for Coventry to play its home matches at the Arena until 2031, from the start of the 2021-22 season. Coventry will continue to play matches at St Andrew’s, home of Championship rival Birmingham City, for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.
Both parties thanked West Midlands Mayor Andy Street for the role he played in bringing the parties together, with the two clubs having held a fractious relationship. The 2019-20 season saw Coventry win promotion to the second-tier Championship and the club spent the entire campaign playing at St Andrew’s, an agreement that was extended in July.
The groundshare deal was signed amid a long-running battle between Sisu, which owns Coventry, and Wasps Holdings Limited, the parent company of Wasps and the Ricoh Arena, where Coventry had previously played its home games.
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 had played at since 2005, when it moved from Highfield Road. Coventry also spent the 2013-14 season groundsharing with Northampton Town amid another stadium rental dispute, before returning to the Ricoh through to the end of the 2018-19 season.
Commenting on the new deal, Coventry City chief executive Dave Boddy said: “We look forward to building a positive and co-operative relationship with Wasps Group over the term of this agreement, the length of which allows us stability as a club as we look to continue our progress on and off the field. The deal is also the best that the club has had at the Ricoh Arena in terms of access to commercial revenues, which will further aid the development of the football club.
“We can’t wait for fans to return to the Ricoh Arena. There is much work to do and planning has already started, but we ask that fans bear with us as we put in place what we need to for our return before we communicate further information. We know that the day that our fans are able to come back and watch their team in Coventry is one that they will be already looking forward to.”
In July, Coventry announced that it was working with the University of Warwick to explore a potential new stadium for the club. The two parties commenced planning for a partnership that would see the university provide land to the club for the development of a new stadium.
Boddy said: “The deal is for 10 years with a break clause at seven years, which accounts for the club and our owners aim of developing a stadium of our own with the University of Warwick and at the same time giving us stability.
“In the meantime, there are positive changes at the Ricoh Arena that fans will see compared to recent years that we have been there, and we look forward to announcing details of those to our fans in the coming weeks and months.”
Commenting on the deal, Stephen Vaughan, Wasps Group chief executive, added: “It is time to put the past firmly behind us. There has been a massive amount of work going on behind the scenes to get us to this point as both organisations felt it was very important that we agreed a long-term deal to bring certainty and continuity, which would in turn allow us to build even stronger futures.
“August will now mark the start of a new era for both Wasps Group and Coventry City. This year will see the arena host events for the City of Culture celebrations and the Rugby League World Cup, as well as start preparations for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
“The news that we will be welcoming Coventry City back is yet another positive piece of news for the area and a real boost to everybody as we come out of what has been an extremely difficult time for many people.”
Image: Coventry City