Coventry City’s Summer Of FUD
‘Fear, Uncertainty and Distrust’ is a phrase with its roots in information technology, but it has become increasingly used elsewhere to describe a culture in which companies play sophisticated – and sometimes less than sophisticated – psychological tricks in order to force their will upon others. It is difficult to interpret the statement issued yesterday by the chief bottom feeder at Coventry City, Tim Fisher, which states that the club is now to seek a short term ground-share while it seeks to build a new stadium ‘in the vicinity’ of the city as a result of its ongoing dispute with the owners of its presumably soon to be former home, the Ricoh Arena, as being ‘FUD’ of the first order.
Yet as this announcement was made, one thought sprang immediately to mind: if we set to one side the convoluted nature of company ownership that has made establishing exactly who is doing what at this club, why is Fisher making pronouncements at a time during which the club is supposed to be in administration? Theoretically, we might think, Fisher and his fellow SISU compadres should be having little to with the running of the club at present, so how tame, exactly, is the administrator that they appointed to run it?
There is little of any great surprise regarding yesterday’s statement, of course. SISU have a history of grandiose public statements in which they seek to portray themselves as wounded parties in a saga that is difficult to regard as anything other than being one that is primarily of their own making – consider, for example, their very public moving of club shop merchandise out of the Ricoh Arena just before Easter, which led to a period of ‘will they, won’t they’ concerning whether the club would complete the season at the stadium which has become such an albatross around the club’s neck. Let us, however, take Fisher at his word that he is serious in this exercise in throwing his toys out of the pram this time, and consider the finer details of yesterday’s statement.
“People have to understand we do not posture, we do not threaten, because that is not how you do business, you only do business in good faith. Always.
Says the man whose company is currently seeking legal proceedings over the terms of a deal between Coventry City Council and ACL, the company that it part owns and which owns the Ricoh Arena, in January which allowed for a remortgage which allowed ACL to set to one side the worst of the financial difficulties that it was having at the time, difficulties which were largely due to the club’s non-payment of rent due over the previous few months or so.
“We have started the process of procuring land so that we can shift the new stadium build forward at a pace. The stadium will be in the Coventry area in accordance with Football League rules.”
If this process has already begun, it would be reasonable to suggest that Fisher had no intention of keeping the club at the Ricoh Arena beyond the end of this season. As for the phrase ‘in the Coventry area,’ well, that is striking mostly for being a very vague description. What does Fisher mean by this? Has the club identified a site within the city of Coventry itself? Otherwise, this loose definition could mean anything. Might he define ‘the Coventry area’ as ‘anywhere in Warwickshire?’, or perhaps, ‘anywhere in the West Midlands’? It’s impossible to say because, as ever, the only way in which a SISU statement can reasonably be interpreted is with the assistance of several grains of salt.
“That long-term vision has us playing in the Coventry area in a new stadium that will be designed and delivered in three years.
Well, no-one can fault his ambition, at least. Three years to gain planning permission for a new stadium, purchase the land upon which it will stand and then get it built, however, feels like a time span that has been plucked out of thin air, especially when we consider that his company would, were it to be built in Coventry itself, be dealing with the very organisation that he is currently taking legal action against. How quickly, would it be reasonable to assume, would Coventry City Council jump to help out a company that has treated them in the way that SISU has in recent years? Unless, of course a planned new ground would be built in an area that would stretch the definition of ‘in the Coventry area’ beyond what a majority of the club’s supporters would tolerate. Planning permission cam be a slow and tortuous protest at the best of times, and SISU could hardly be considered to have spent the last year or so developing good relationships with the sort of people that can get these processes hurried along.
All this will be in full consultation with the fans – starting with the upcoming forums.
Well, good luck with that. If the general opinion of those posting on supporters internet forums such as Sky Blues Talk is anything to go by, Fisher would be lucky to get out of any meetings with supporters groups alive and without a noose fashioned from a sky blue and white scarf tied around his neck. The club’s supporters trust has also come out as being openly hostile to the move, as well. SISU would be better equipped to build these sort of bridges had their behaviour since taking control of the club not been so successful in burning them in the first place. Posts on the first page of Sky Blues Talk at the time of writing include the titles, ‘Picketing’, ‘Not One Penny More’, and ‘New Club?’, which says about as much about the current mood of the club’s support as probably needs to be said at the moment.
Meanwhile, the Coventry City Supporters Trust have issued a statement on the very fact that Fisher is issuing edicts of this nature while the club is supposed to be in administration which summarises the eyebrow raising nature of all of this so concisely that we reproduce it here in full:
When Coventry City FC Limited was placed into administration Paul Appleton of David Rubin & Partners LLP was appointed as joint administrator. This means he is in charge of the business. This is established in law.
We are therefore confused about why Tim Fisher, former Chief Executive of Coventry City FC, and who we believe is still employed by Coventry City FC (Holdings) Ltd, appears to be exerting such influence over the actions of Paul Appleton, particularly around the future of the club at the Ricoh Arena.
We are currently seeking legal clarification of this understanding, as we are concerned that Paul Appleton is not acting in the best interests of the creditors of Coventry City FC Limited.
Ultimately, the decisions made by Paul Appleton and David Rubin and Partners LLP are about the future not of an ordinary business, but of a community asset; a Football Club that has been part of our City, its life and its community since 1883.
We take the current threat to the future of our Football Club extremely seriously and will not sit back whilst it is buffeted by the demands of a small group of self-interested, selfish individuals who have no interest other than themselves and their short-term investment concerns.
We call on The Football League to investigate this relationship, that the integrity of their competition is protected, and the Football Association also stand firm on this threat to our Football Club and our national game.
Quite how or even whether the unholy mess that Coventry City Football Club has become can be untangled is not a question that can be answered easily with a positive. With SISU continuing to spin, the location of the club’s Golden Share, which is the key to its membership of the Football League, seeming to be as elusive as it has been since the argument over which company held it flared up in the first place, the club now apparently homeless and with plans for a new stadium, for all of their bullishness, still but a twinkle on the horizon, it seems that as much as the put upon supporters of Coventry City Football Club can hope for for the foreseeable future is yet more fear, uncertainty and distrust.
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