League One side Coventry City's ongoing battle with their stadium owners escalated further yesterday, with the news that their bank accounts have been frozen. Ricoh Arena landlords Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) have issued Third Party Debt Orders through the courts that block the Sky Blues from accessing any funds until further notice.
The BBC Sport website reports that club's account, its card payment account, its Business Rates account with the City Council and Huddersfield Town's bank account have all been frozen as part of the court order. Huddersfield's involvement specifically relates to compensation that Coventry City would be due to receive for the loss of manager Mark Robins and his assistant Steve Taylor who moved to the Championship club this week whilst only five months into a three year contract.
Coventry are claimed to have not made any rent payments to ACL since April 2012. In August 2012, a High Court hearing heard that Coventry owed £500,000. By December 2012, ACL were getting seriously fed up and issued a 21 day statutory demand against debts of £1.1 million, but Coventry's owners SISU ignored it, despite the fact that their failure to pay a penny gave ACL the legal rights to padlock the stadium or issue a winding up order. Earlier this week, ACL revealed that those debts had risen to £1.347 million and they still hadn't received any payments.
The interim debt order gives Coventry's and Huddersfield's banks seven days to reveal what sums of money are held in those accounts, or in Huddersfield's case how much they are due to pay in compensation for Robins and Taylor. A judge may then provide a legal order for those funds to be moved into an ACL bank account to partially or wholly clear those debts, although the process of this is likely to take until May 1st to conclude.
Coventry's claim that they can't afford to pay any of the Ricoh Arena rent may be undermined by their own Chief Executive Tim Fisher, who earlier this week tried to justify the club's position concerning Robins' decision to jump ship and join Huddersfield. Fisher claimed that Robins was well funded in terms of his playing budget, saying: "We gave a considerable financial commitment in terms of players brought in during the loan windows to ensure that we had a strong, competitive team on the pitch."
That may have been the point at which ACL decided to take their own action, perhaps feeling that Coventry's "considerable financial commitment" might want to be more evenly spread to include paying the rent on the stadium, rather than spending all income on players wages. Having paid nothing in rent for 10 months, it's hard to see how Coventry will be able to defend this legal action.
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