On July 8th Sky Blues fans were once again dealt another heavy blow when they found that the club they support, which has already had to endure irresponsible ownership and financial struggle, will now no longer remain in Coventry and instead ground share with Northampton Town 34 miles away.
Not only is the move a terrible blow for a club with such a rich history, but also it once again shows the incompetence of the club’s ownership. Although it has passed from the Mayfair-based hedge fund SISU to Otium Entertainment Group, the key figures involved have been retained from the previous regime.
They haven’t learnt from Coventry City’s previous mistakes when they signed a contract with Arena Coventry Limited to secure a home at the Ricoh Arena in 2005 (once they’d left their Highfield Road ground after 106 years). Finding a new place to play their football was supposed to inject some inspiration and drive, but had the opposite effect.
They agreed an annual rent of £1.3 million (considerably higher than any of the other renting teams in the Championship or League One) and didn’t secure the full amount of match day revenue which would help go towards paying their expensive rental payments.
However, their new deal to relocate to Sixfields is equally as shortsighted and looks as if it will bring with it even more financial hardship. They are paying Northampton Town a “very reasonable amount” just to be allowed to share a home and are forfeiting a share of their match day income (once again) to the Cobblers.
This match day revenue is likely to be even smaller as many Sky Blues fans will be unwilling to make the long journey to home games. The protest movement called ‘Not One Penny More’, which represents disgruntled fans, is urging no one to contribute any more money to the club until it returns to Coventry.
A final culprit brought into the story is the Football League, who despite their statement about how they agreed to the move with “deep regret”, have allowed the club’s owners to get away with a move that is seen by OEG as a way to save money and not having to accept ACL’s demands.
The relocation doesn’t pay much respect to the people of Coventry, who have supported and kept the club alive since 1883, and are the group that are going to be there much longer than any of the reckless owners.