No Speedy Resolution To The Ricoh Arena Dispute

Ian

Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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25 Responses

  1. Peter Chambers says:

    Your article seems very one-sided. It appears to be predicated, that the Football Club has done something wrong or is doing something wrong or will do something wrong! My position is simple, the Football Club and the Football Ground need to be brought together so that my Football Club has any sort of future. I do not care if SISU pick it up for nothing (it has already invested £60 million in our Football Club and has shown more commitment and support than most of the Club’s fans}. It would be total madness for my Club to go back to playing at the Ricoh with a landlord/tenant relationship that has been bleeding my Club. The Club has fought and suffered deprivation to break away from the chains of a greedy and deceitful Council, why would it return as a tenant, thereby giving the Council the whip hand again. No, No, No! My Club must not go back to the Ricoh unless it goes back as owner and master of its own house.
    I don’t swallow all the propaganda put out by the Council through its various acolytes. Highfield Road was privately owned as are nearly all Football Clubs. Was it any less a Community Asset than the Democratic People’s Republic of Coventry Stadium? I estimate that if the Club owned the Ricoh it would be able to more than double its turnover, thereby being able to put better players on the pitch and make progress back to the Premiership.
    In Coventry and Warwickshire it is like the “emperor’s new clothes”, in that it is assumed that you must be stupid or unprincipled, if you support the Football Club, but I hold up a mirror to these people and point out their error!
    I believe the principle is with SISU and I fervently hope and believe that it will come out on top in this battle against an unscrupulous Labour Council.

    Sky Blue Pete.

  2. andrew says:

    Pete – forgive you because you do not know what you say

    1. Check the facts – on a cash investment, the £60m is way overstated – closer to £30m
    2. The club has suffered deprivation – which due to its inability to carry out due diligence has left them with a high rent (very poor business practice – Is Joy sepalla answerable to anybody?)
    3. In the mean time, they have been offered use of the Ricoh for match day costs only, but instead they prefer to alienate the customers.
    4. You are not unprincipled if you support the football club – several thousand do, You are however unprincipled if you are happy to support a bunch of charlatans, systematically taking our club apart

    Pete – be ashamed, be very ashamed

  3. Daniel says:

    Except the football club will never be “owner and master of its own house”.

    Fisher himself has confirmed there would be an op-co and prop-co arrangement. Nothing unusual in that, but the Club itself would own nothing other than the right to stadium revenues. So let’s not pretend this is some altruistic act of Sisutium’s to obtain club ownership of a football ground, yeah?

    Of course, if ACL were serious about us coming back, they would offer us those revenues (or a share thereof) and a generously low rent….so they too have their own part to play.

    Frankly Sisu have nobody to blame but themselves. You say they’ve invested 60m; firstly there is some dispute whether that’s actually true, but if it is, what do they have to show for it? A threadbare squad in League One, playing to pathetic crowds. They had the chance to renegotiate the rent for five years. They didn’t.

  4. John says:

    Pete, a few questions for you.

    First of all, why do you believe sisu should be given the ground? You suggest they should as though they have some moral right to it. Simple fact is sisu contributed nothing towards the construction of the Ricoh Arena, so why should they get it for free? The council own the freehold, and are under no obligation to sell. I think you and sisu need to realise that.

    Secondly you state that the rent agreement “bled the club dry” yet in the same paragraph you state that sisu have pumped in £60m to keep the club afloat. As rent has been £1.2m per season, and lost f&b revenue no more than a few £100k, would you care to summarise where the other £50m loss has come from? Does this not suggest a deeper problem with the club unrelated to the rent issue? Is it not more likely that incompetence of sisu (In particular the amateurish Mr Fisher) and the previous owner are the real reason for the financial mess?

    Furthermore could you please explain why its better for the club to play in Northampton for the next few years, rather than the Ricoh whilst Fisher constructs some empty shed 9 miles from Coventry?

    I’m happy for you to hold up a mirror to me to show me my error, so feel free.

    All I see coming from you however is unsubstantiated hatred towards the council, I suggest you need to realise all that bitterness, and look at things with an open mind. Only then can you make the right judgement for our club.

  5. Michael Orton says:

    Ian, an absolutely excellent article. Along with David Conn this is 2 brilliant pieces of journalism about CCFC. Season ticket sales are down by a reported 90% and crowds at sixfields are down by 80% compared with the Ricoh last season. The ‘division’ among City is between the vast majority who oppose the move to Northampton and a tiny but very noisy minority like Mr Chambers who are more interested in a hedge fund and the council than the team and fans. So a big thank you to Ian and 200% for cutting through the various spin machines and helping fans understand what is going on.

  6. Kevin Rye says:

    What I fail to understand is how a minority of people still continue to cling onto the idea that a hedge fund that only cared about the rent (agreed when they inexplicably bought the club) when its Premier League promotion masterplan failed is somehow on the moral high ground. And this only happened after the money to prop-up the losses generated by poor ownership from SISU dried up, when they then decided that the ground ownership was in fact the issue. And even then they just flat stopped paying the rent.

    What’s even more surprising is the handful of people who still continue to expect a council, in straightened times as well, to hand over an asset that it part-owns (remember that the Higgs Charity owns the other half that Coventry City Directors had to sell off due to their own lack of financial responsibility – before SISU bought the club, but SISU bought it knowing that), or at least sell it at a knock-down price.

    The residual group of people still arguing that SISU being virtually handed back the ground as a ‘solution’ are seemingly more motivated by a dislike of a local authority – and perhaps its political colours, I don’t know – than they are the facts.

    The fact that the club was paying the rent it was, was a legacy of the administration that signed the lease, and was in place when SISU bought the club. When they finally decided it was an issue, some five years following purchase, they_just_stopped_paying_the_rent. How is that a position of moral strength?

    Thanks for this piece, @twoht: it just reinforces the facts that Labovitch, Fisher, Seppala and co are in fact operating as a hedge fund that distresses the owners of assets to get their hands on them. A direct quote from SISU/CCFC’s Tim Fisher in July of this year: “”SISU is a distressed debt fund and therefore batters people in court.” And they’re acting differently now?

  7. I says:

    I see the Sisu astroturfers are in early.

    You know the trick to successful “online reputation management” is to not be so blatant. Don’t be the first post on every article.

    Much like everything else Sisu attempt, it makes you look like you don’t know why you’re doing.

  8. I says:

    *what

    Damn you autocorrect.

  9. Harry Allen says:

    Ooh, look another ACL slanted love-fest. The posters on SBT will be beside themselves with endless virtual high-fives and back-clapping. Maybe they, and you, will enjoy going to council meetings to cheer on your Councillor heroes.

    ML is correct. ACL bled this club dry for seven years before CCFC rightly said “enough is enough”. If ACL had kept to the agreed a deal with SISU a year ago then we wouldn’t be in Northampton, we’d be at the Ricoh. Still with piss-poor crowds though, I’d imagine.

  10. Rowan says:

    Pete,

    The way i view this is that ccfc as we know it is being held hostage by its owners SISU – it is the owners who are driving thier own agenda that simply makes no sense.

    In an ideal world we would all like to see the Ricoh owned by CCFC with all revenues going to the club. This is simply not going to happen as admitted by Mr Fisher recently. The club may sit within a group structure but it will never own the Ricoh in the way all ccfc fans would like.

    Careful analysis of ccfc accounts show that SISU have not invested £60 million at all. The figure is more like £25 million which is still a considerable amount. I would suggest the evidence is that they have been incompetent owners who have had no idea how to invest and run a football club.

    The council/acl have not bled the club dry, a rent agreement with ccfc was by agreement. This was not challenged by SISU when they did thier due diligence, if they missed this then thats pure incompetence.

    Owning the Ricoh is a red herring, SISU only have to own ACL to access all the match dat and non-match day revenues – simply owning the freehold to the ricoh brings none of this as ACL have a legal contract to manage the arena which cannot be ignored.

    Simply, if the value of ACL is around £8 million with all the revenues it generates why would you spend anything between £20-£100 million on a building that generates no income whatso ever?

    The recent rent offer put forward by ACL through the football league for £0 rent this season and £100k rent for the following 2 years is far more lucrative for SISU than playing at Northampton. Thier refusal based on haveing to pay match costs of £300k is plainly stupid givn the massive increase in revenues it would recieve by increased attendence at the Ricoh.

    You have to ask what on earth is thier real agenda here because its certainly not whats best for ccfc. SISU are parasites on the game and the real tragedy is the way the Football league has been complicite in this.

    Its time for the football league to stand up for the game, for fans and for players and say to SISU that they must return to the ricoh.

  11. Dave Robinson says:

    Sky Blue Pete, would be interested in your reasoning that the club cannot survive in a landlord / tenant situation? Ownership of the freehold brings with it no revenues so how would this aid the club? If they took ownership of the freehold they would also have to buy the leasehold from ACL. Would a better option not be for SISU to make a bid for 100% ownership of ACL, pay off the loan to the council and ask the council to create a new, rolling, leasehold agreement with a peppercorn rent.

    SISU and therefore at least theoretically the football club get the benefit of all the revnues however the council retain ownership of the freehold. This for me is important as the council retaining that stake removes the option of SISU using the stadium as security on debts. The only reason I can see for them needing the freehold is that, if they purchase at well below market value, they can then take credit against the stadium up to the full value and walk away with a return on their initial investment, which is nowhere near £60m, leaving the football club with huge debts they have very little chance of being able to service. At best we would see another administration and a bank or other money lender taking control of the stadium and we would once again be tenants.

  12. Steven Cullen says:

    First things first, Pete Chambers I would like you to step aside from your role as a Coventry city supporter. You are someone who makes my blood boil when I live and breath Coventry City for you to act so arrogantly time and time again undermine us real fans. If you have your view fine and if you want to go sixfields then fine but you are in the vast minority. Me and thousands others wont go and are hurting at the fact we have been moved out of Cov and will never get over it so leave us be please.

    We all want a solution to this situation as it is becoming clearer a solution wont happen anytime soon if ever. My view is if all this has happened then there is a reason and if it could of been stopped then it would of been.

    I agree with the supporter above who quotes TF as saying “SISU is a distressing debt fund who batters people in court” is enough proof that this is all this situation is about. Its about acquiring Ricoh on the cheap and making money from it. I could buy a house from someone who needs the cash for a lower price and then sell it myself in time at a real value hence why SISU offer the 4m stated not the 12-15m its probably worth. This would be a quick 10 million profit. Anyone who believes a new stadium will happen is not a football or a finance man.

    I for the record have been to all away games this year and I certainly refuse to go to sixfields, nothing to do with money or time but purely based on principal, honour and pride. There will come a day whether it be in 1 year or 30 years when SISU don’t own my football club but I will still be here.

    Remember SISU are not stupid they know exactly what they are doing and 7,000 fans at MK they can see what they are missing in gate receipts and merchandise etc but this is small change when it comes to the Ricoh and oh yeah the FACT they don’t care about me or any Coventry fan.(this doesn’t help)

    I struggle to be optimistic how can you be? SP and his team are doing a great job making me feel better when I am someone who still every day that goes by cant believe my Coventry city plays in Northampton.

    One final point I would like to make is I don’t see how people can blame the council or ACL? yes they share some blame of course they do but its seems to me they are making all the moves and offers to avoid all this. I see SISU don’t compromise on nothing. 90% reduction in rent offers of rent free also. At the end of the day the council cant make CCFC play at the Ricoh but SISU can make it happen and thankfully the majority see this. The problem is us majority of caring fans cant do a single thing about it.The state of football 2014 im afraid.

    Heads up Cov fans and keep cheering the team away and one day we will be back home. One day.

  13. Paul says:

    Interesting that a former member of the “trust”‘s board and supporters direct have replied. Oddly though even now not a single comment from the veryt group that CLAIMS to represent the fans of coventry! Surely a group that wants ownership of the club are entitled to comment on how rejecting an offer (be it indirectly offered through a third party but offered nonetheless) yet unfathomably and unforgivably remained silent.

    Surely if ever there was a valid time to criticise the owners NOW is that time! Even Supporter’s direct has come out in criticism! It is one thing to be silent lest they alienate the owners, but how can it be justified when the owners are doing what they are now?

    Are they STILL going to pretend it is morally right yet alone expediant to remain silent now? They claimed criticism might prevent them being able to talk to sisu, but their are 2 points even a fool must surely admit now.

    1) They shot that bolt months ago when they had the protest march – sky blues ribbons farce

    2) Sisu DO NOT LISTEN TO REASON!

    All being silent does now is show their impotence / incompetence. Claiming to have “broad shoulders” is pointless if all you have planned is setting up a TV for the odd game! This is fine for a fan club – but NOT for a group wanting ownership of the club / wanting a seat on the board!

    They do not seem to have the same qualms about the protest outside the council – with board members signing the petition and trust members attending the “protest”

    Seems they care nought for the club, but more about feathering their nests. Eitherr stand up for the fans or stand down. Fence sitting is unacceptable now!

  14. Malc Watts says:

    Great article in terms of clarity and facts. You would hope at some stage in this never ending saga, that both parties involved would look deep into their Corporate (SISU) and Public Serving (COVENTRY COUNCIL)souls, and make a decision that has the supporters of CCFC and football at its heart – It’s not going to happen.

    That is why as touched on in this article, the actions of the Football League need revisiting, as has been reported in the past they have the power to force the owners back to Coventry, but were as usual toothless and weak. Both sides in this stand off come out smelling of something – and it isn’t roses. Supporters like Michael Orton did what they could to highlight the Football Leagues part in this mess,there must be a way from the powers that be to exert pressure back in the direction of the Football League – they have a lot to answer for.

  15. Rob says:

    Dear Pete,

    It’s a tad ironic that you complain the article is one sided and then come out with your views, anyway please could you answer the following?

    The £60m ‘investment’ – Please could you break this down for me, what has it been spent on? What independantly verifiable information have you based the figure on?

    How much do you think SISU companies take out of the club in management charges and interest charges?

    Do you think SISU should publish accounts? they must have been prepared for management purposes even if they don’t legally have to file them.

    You estimate a doubling of the turnover – Please explain your workings. Which turnover are you doubling, Northampton or some from a Ricoh era? Where have you got your current turnover figures from?

    Thanks.

  16. Nick says:

    I know someone who has been to 2 meeting with tim fisher & his dog.(tim is just employed by sisu) & its over no hope of a return to coventry these bullies are not nice they dont care about the fans as they have proved .it is all sisu fault. why dont they give the club to the trust ho no as we know they are not nice.

  17. James Cowan says:

    SISU will not build a new stadium. Anyone who thinks that, is a fool.

    The Ricoh cost £113m, why consider building another inferior version at even half the cost when you think you can get the Ricoh for £5/10m through distressing ACL and taking them to court for it?

    I am astonished by and do not respect anyone who goes to Sixfields, every pound paid there lessens the finanical implications of the disgusting direction they have taken.

    Look at yourself in the mirror before you go to Sixfields on a Sunday and realise that people can do what they like to you and the things you love, you will still turn up like a mug and let them do it.

    To all those who won’t go – I am immensly proud of your resilience, integrity and stregth.

  18. Andy S says:

    If SISU do as you suggest and destroy the socialist cretins via the good old British justice system then more power to there elbow says I ! CCFC has no future as a downtroden and subjugated rentalist at the Ricoh. CCC – ACL our on a par with landlords who evicted starving tenants from there homes during the Irish potato famine! As a loyal to the core suporter I fully agree with SISU actions. They have saved CCFC and our rebuilding it from the bottom up. This period of transistion has produced hysterical knee jerk reactions from the pro- ACL – CCC brigade. It is time for all GENUINE suporters to get themselves down to the Sizzling Sixfields and roar on Elvis’s young lions to promotion. The blogcaster has presented a very one sided view of events. Pete Chambers is spot on with his assertions. For a balanced view of proceedings I suggest that everyone reads award winning journalist Les Reid’s articles in the Coventry Telegraph. Les has his finger on the pulse and is completely unbiased. He has correctly concluded that the Ricoh should be sold to SISU for a nominal 4 £ million. All that is needed is for ACL to draw up a sale agreement at this price. Simples. If not us LOYAL suporters our happy to wait for HR2.

  19. Norway Sky Blue says:

    Thanks for a superb review. This deserves to be widely circulated and will hopefully land on the Football League’s desk sometime soon!

    It seems that SISU/Otium’s position is finally becoming openly recognised and expressed, even by Otium themselves. The City Council/ACL has chosen a formidable opponent – a hedge fund which specialises in distressed assets and is determined to squeeze some value out of its acquisition by whatever means, with apparently few moral or ethical qualms about the wider impact. It’s depressing but at least now we know where we stand…

  20. Simon Edwards says:

    Andy and Pete make me sick – one can only presume you are SISU stooges – it would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing. Oh and I loved the Les Reid award winning journalist and not biased bit – why don’t you and he just do one you …….

  21. Mike says:

    I thought it was an excellent article which sets out clearly the situation but it depresses me to see how many responders still can’t see SISU/Otium for what they are. By their own admission, they are distressed asset strippers and they have clearly set out to squeeze ACL as hard as possible to get their hands on valuable freehold assets as cheaply as possible.

    I have been a season ticket holder for many years but I am also a citizen of Coventry and I don’t want any City asset, least of all an iconic asset like the Ricoh to be sold off cheaply – especially as a result of blackmail. ACL and their owners must somehow ride out this storm and only consider selling at a GENUINE market value and not one artificially depressed by Sisu’s rent strike – and even then there must be absolutely watertight covenants and restrictions to ensure that the Ricoh’s owners must maintain it as the playing home of Coventry City Football club in perpetuity. Otherwise it will get used for whatever makes most profit at the time.

  22. lee mc says:

    What really grates with me is that the loan that the judicial review is about was arranged so that the rent could be reduced! It made great financial sense for everybody. ACL reduce their mortgage repayments meaning that ccfc could benefit from reduced rent and CCC could invest money which it was entitled to borrow at a beneficial rate because its a local authority..therefore also making money. Its hard to see how anybody can have a problem with that?

    Lets not forget that the Ricoh would never have been built without council funding after previous owners had sold Highfield Road out from under the club. Now is it out of order for the Council to charge rent from a tennant? Obviously not . Imagine you rented a house off a landlord, and when you moved in you were in a great job earning 100k p/a…then you move out and somebody else moves in, but this time they earn 15k. Do you negotiate the rent or move in knowing you can afford it then stop paying? Then move out and take the landlord to court for charging the advertised price?

    Sisu will never get planning permission for a new ground while the Ricoh is still standing and acl are willing to talk

  23. Sky Black says:

    Interesting article. I don’t understand how anyone (without a financial interest) can think it’s in the best interest of the club I loved for 40 years to be owned by an asset stripping hedge fund who base their “business” in a jurisdiction with no legal requirement to file accounts. As a Council Tax payer, I see no benefit in gifting City held assets to a foreign corporation, as a supporter of charities, I again fail to see how it could be in the best interest of a charity to gift assets to a foreign held corporation.

    For me it’s over, the club is dead, SISU killed it, I can’t support robbing its corpse to pay off a hedge fund and its lawyers.

  24. Peter in the sarf says:

    Great article and some great comments. And a couple of “special” ones from the masochistic Fisher-philes.

    Sky Black – you absolutely spot on – “I can’t support robbing its corpse to pay off a hedge fund and is lawyers.” Personally I’d sooner burn the Ricoh to the ground than see Sisu get their hands on it by “stealing” from a charity and a council….

    Peter

  25. Itsamadmadworld says:

    Interesting article. One could hardly blame ACL if they sign an agreement with Wasps giving them primacy of tenure for the next few years and effectively freezing out CCFC. It would be tough on supporters of both Wasps and CCFC but maybe good for council tax payers.

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