League One side Coventry City's future is still yet to be decided, despite only two weeks remaining before an EFL Extraordinary General Meeting is due to take place to decide their fate for next season. Both the Football League and Coventry City have issued statements, but lining them up side-by-side, it's questionable as to whether they're both reading from the same hymnsheet.
The League's statement claims that they have not received a definite application from Coventry, but believe that they are aiming to 'extend their stay at the Ricoh Arena for future seasons'. However, Coventry's own statement says that they gave the League an update, informing them that they do not expect to be at their home stadium next season, and that they are looking at two possible groundsharing options - something that the EFL do not mention in their own statement at all.
The EFL statement reaffirms that Coventry would face a motion to expel them from the Football League on Thursday 25th April, if they have not satisfied the EFL Board in terms of the criteria they need to meet in terms of having a secure leasehold agreement with a stadium within an acceptable location:
"The EFL Board is still to receive a definitive application from Coventry City in respect to where the Club plans to stage its home matches in the 2019-20 season. The Club continues to work with a number of relevant parties, as they attempt to seek a solution that satisfies the EFL. An Extraordinary General Meeting of Clubs has been convened to consider their expulsion from the League on 25 April if they are unable to satisfy the EFL Board. The EFL understands that it is the Club’s preference to extend their stay at the Ricoh Arena for future seasons and this would meet the EFL's ultimate objective of ensuring they continue to play in the city of Coventry on a long term basis."
One noticeable slant to Coventry City's own statement, is that they appear to be attempting to distance themselves from their owners SISU Capital Limited - a Hedge Fund management company based in London. SISU are currently taking legal action against Coventry City Council over the sale of the Ricoh Arena, and that has led to an impasse with current owners, rugby side Wasps, who have refused to conduct negotiations with the Coventry Board whilst the legal action is in place.
Coventry claim that they did provide an update to the Football League, and that they now plan to make arrangements for a groundshare agreement with one of two unnamed clubs. Contradicting the League's statement, they do not expect to be at the Ricoh Arena next season:
"Coventry City today provided an update to the EFL Board, as was requested. The Football Club confirmed to the EFL that it is close to the Head of Terms stage with two groundshare options. Coventry City will now progress to working on finalising terms with the Clubs and Stadiums involved. While it remains our number one priority to stay, we can confirm that unfortunately the Ricoh Arena is not one of the venues above. At this stage, Wasps continue to choose not to enter into talks with the Football Club while our Owners SISU continue legal action with Coventry City Council. Regrettably, we therefore have had to make alternative plans to the Ricoh Arena, the stadium that was built for us, to ensure our place in the EFL next season. The groundshare proposals would do that. Coventry City Football Club and its management team cannot affect the stances of Coventry City Council, Wasps or of our Owners in this situation – what we can do is put in plans to ensure this great Football Club continues to survive despite the impasse that exists, and that is what we will do."
What should be ringing alarm bells for Sky Blues fans is how far apart the two statements are in their understanding of the situation. When the League first held talks with Coventry City, the Sky Blues Chairman Tim Fisher told TalkSport in late February that he had been told by the League that they had to play "within six miles of the city centre". With no alternative League standard ground meeting that criteria, the fact that Coventry don't appear to have told the League about their groundsharing plans implies they're ultimately going to be providing a proposal that falls well short of the EFL's original requirements. The only way that Coventry could mitigate that would be to provide evidence of a plan for a more permanent home, but despite reports earlier this month that Coventry were looking at a plot of land on the west side of the city that the former Woodlands School sits on, there is no mention of this in their statement, or any suggestion that their groundshare arrangements would be temporary or timebounded.
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