English Premiership rugby union club Wasps has asked the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) for around £13m (€15.2m/$15.9m) in public funds to aid the financial situation of ACL, its operating company for Coventry Building Society Arena.
The BBC said WMCA is considering the application, with a spokesperson for ACL stating “we do not comment on commercially-sensitive matters”.
WMCA confirmed it had received an approach, via Coventry City Council, “which, as with all financial requests of this nature, is currently being considered through the appropriate channels”. It added this was “at an early stage of consideration and any formal submission for decision has not been reached”.
Wasps announced last month that it would delay repaying bondholders, who had invested at least £2,000 each in a scheme that helped the club raise £35m in April 2015 to acquire the stadium under a 250-year lease deal. The bondholders should have been repaid in May.
The BBC notes that the Coventry Building Society Arena business has struggled financially since Wasps relocated to the stadium from its previous home in London back in 2015. Accounts filed in November outlined losses of around £18.5m over the past two years and net liabilities of £54.7m.
Commenting on the request for additional funding, Coventry City Council said: “The City Council, including through the chief executive and senior officers, has regular communication and dialogue with many businesses and this has been particularly important throughout the pandemic as the economic context has been incredibly challenging. Wasps have been one of these businesses.”
The fresh reports come with Wasps having patched up what had been a hugely acrimonious relationship with Coventry Building Society Arena’s former main tenant, Championship football club Coventry City.
In March 2021, Coventry City and Wasps ended the period of enmity between the two organisations with an agreement for the football team to return to what was then the Ricoh Arena. The two parties 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.
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 to cover the 2020-21 campaign.
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.
In February, Coventry City confirmed that it had ended all proceedings relating to the sale of Coventry Building Society Arena to Wasps. Coventry had argued that the council undervalued the stadium by £27m when agreeing to the deal, which made Wasps the owner of the 32,753-seat venue. Coventry’s owners asked the European Commission to investigate whether the deal broke state-aid rules.
In July 2020, Coventry announced that it was working with the University of Warwick to explore a potential new stadium for the club.