Coventry City to start season with only 10-point deduction

Sky Blues facing liquidation after failing to settle differences with owners of Ricoh Arena

 Ricoh Arena.  Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire

Ricoh Arena. Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire

Fri, Aug 2, 2013, 21:32

Coventry City will begin their League One campaign on minus-10 points, rather than minus-15 as many had anticipated, after the Football League imposed the sanction because part of the club is facing liquidation.

The Sky Blues were due to exit administration this week but a company voluntary arrangement was not agreed on Friday morning after a 10-minute creditors meeting in London with the administrator, Paul Appleton. It means Coventry City FC Limited faces liquidation and a planned groundshare with Northampton Town will go ahead this season, with supporters having to travel 34 miles to Sixfields for “home” matches.

The Football League announced on Friday evening that the “golden share” allowing Coventry to play in the League had been transferred from the club’s former owner, Sisu, to Otium Entertainment, in exceptional circumstances.

The Sky Blues, who play at Crawley in their first match of the campaign on Saturday, have been embroiled in a bitter row with Arena Coventry Limited, the company that runs the Ricoh Arena, over rent costs at the stadium, which resulted in part of the club, Coventry City FC Limited, entering administration in March.

The Football League chairman, Greg Clarke, said: “Once again, it is a source of immense frustration to everyone involved that the two parties in this dispute have failed to reach any agreement. The board is dismayed at the level of intransigence being shown.

“Nonetheless, the League will continue with its efforts to get the two parties to enter into meaningful negotiations, so that Coventry City can return to Coventry at the earliest opportunity.

“The board’s decision means that these attempts can now be conducted against a backdrop of Coventry City as a continuing member of the Football League, rather than it having to bring an end to the club’s 94 years in League football.”

ACL, made up of Coventry City Council and the Higgs Trust, and HM Revenue & Customs did not agree to the CVA. An ACL statement explaining that decision read: “This decision was based on ACL’s twin aims: first, to keep Coventry City Football Club playing in Coventry; and second, to ensure that Coventry City Football Club is financially viable for the next few years and beyond. This last point is especially important.

“These concerns are not only the concerns of ACL – they are the concerns of all Sky Blues’ supporters, and should be the central concerns of both the Football League and the Football Association.”

Coventry’s chief executive, Tim Fisher, said: “There has been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the club’s future but this decision by the Football League means we now have certainty.”

It is the latest move in a sorry tale for the club, who were relegated from the Premier League in 2001. However, Coventry will be able to fulfil their commitments in League One.

The row over the Ricoh Arena centred around the £1.3m annual rent at the stadium, which the hedge fund Sisu believed was too high. ACL offered to drastically reduce that amount in at attempt to keep the club at the Ricoh Arena but no agreement has been reached.

Otium Entertainment Group, which has strong connections with Sisu, agreed a deal with Northampton to stage Coventry’s home matches while it plans to build another stadium in the city.

Coventry supporters have been extremely vocal in their protests about the groundshare at Sixfields, and the Sky Blue Trust criticised the role of the Football League, saying it was “appalled” at the latest developments.

Guardian Service