In a move that only reconfirmed Coventry City FC’s intentions to build a new stadium in the next 5-10 years, after discussions with the University of Warwick they have ended legal proceedings against Coventry City Council regarding the sale of the Coventry Building Society Arena (formerly the Ricoh) ten years ago.
The dispute with the council began in 2014, after Coventry’s owners, Sisu, declared that the Council had undervalued the stadium by £27 million in selling their 50% share to Wasps rugby club, a move they claimed was in breach of EU state aid law. This was on the back of arguments surrounding Coventry’s rent of the stadium and the revenue accrued from matchday ticket sales, a disagreement that had effectively begun when the stadium was built in 2005.
This bad relationship with the council led to the club having to play away from home for nearly ten years, variously at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium, and Birmingham City’s St. Andrews. They had returned to the stadium between 2014 and 2019, but this stint ended after a further disagreement, this time with Wasps. However, it was finally agreed in March 2021 that Coventry would allow the club to return to the stadium in a deal which should last for ten years.
Despite a break clause in the contract, which means that Coventry’s lease of the stadium will end upon completion of the new ground, many of the Sky Blues’ supporters saw this new deal as putting the plans in jeopardy. If Coventry had healed relations with their landlords, and their future at the CBS Arena was secured, many questioned why a new, multi-million pound stadium was needed, with two 30,000 seater stadiums, in a city with a population of 345,000, seeming excessive.
The University of Warwick is proud to be able to support our city’s football club
– Stuart Croft
The club’s statement, however, while seeming to heal relations with the council further, appears to have been with the sole intention of progressing the development of the future stadium: “The decision will allow the football club and Coventry City Council to open a meaningful dialogue for the first time in a decade.” The fact that discussions with Warwick University were intrinsic to the ending of the dispute, also suggests that the University wishes maintain good relations with the Council in the construction of a stadium, which will clearly have a large impact on the city as a whole’s future, while also reaffirming the University’s commitment to the development.
Vice-chancellor Stuart Croft stated: “I’m delighted that Coventry City FC have now sought to end all proceedings and together we can move forward together towards an exciting future.
“The University of Warwick is proud to be able to support our city’s football club. Not only will this benefit the club and its fans, but the wider benefits to the city will be significant.”
For many Coventry City fans, this once again hints at a changing of Sisu’s ways, after years of mismanagement led to relegation to League Two. They have since risen to the Championship, and currently sit just outside the play-offs, leaving many fans hopeful of a return to the Premier League, the club’s rightful home, in the near future.
For the University of Warwick, students can now look forward with re-confirmed excitement or apprehension (depending on your view) to a future where Coventry City Football Club, and its fans, will become a prominent part of campus life.