Coventry City will not be playing at the Ricoh Arena next season.
The club has confirmed it will ground share with Championship club Birmingham City instead.
The Sky Blues deal to play at the Ricoh expired at the end of the last campaign - and they have been in talks with stadium owners Wasps about extending it. The Rugby Club insisted they would not do a deal unless football club owners SISU ended legal action relating to the venue. That briefly saw talks stall last month - though they later restarted.
City confirmed a ground share agreement was in place, but that staying at the Ricoh was their preference. No deal has been agreed with Wasps, and now the League One club will leave its home city for the second time in six years.
The full statement from CCFC is below.
"Coventry City Football Club can confirm that it will ground share at Birmingham City’s St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium for the 2019/20 season.
"The Club has delayed any stadium announcement in the hope that a deal could be agreed with Wasps to play at the Ricoh Arena. The deadline has passed and unfortunately there has been no agreement. To ensure we fulfil our home fixtures and therefore retain our place in the EFL, CCFC will be ground sharing next season.
"We know full well that this is a very sad day for Coventry City Football Club, the City of Coventry, Coventrians and most importantly Sky Blues supporters.
"We are incredibly disappointed and extremely frustrated that continuing differences between our owners SISU and Wasps, and also Coventry City Council, could not be set aside to allow for a deal to play the Club’s home games at the Ricoh Arena. The Ricoh Arena is the stadium built to be the football Club’s home, and our fans should be able to watch their team play in the City that we are proud to represent.
"We have said previously and continue to state publicly and clearly, the Club’s willing intention to do a deal to stay at the Ricoh Arena. However, in order for a deal to be agreed between landlord and tenant, the conditions for the deal need to be deliverable by the tenant. What the landlord requested of CCFC’s owners and ultimately, the Club, was simply not deliverable. It can be argued that the landlord was fully aware of this.
"As such, after much hard-work behind the scenes to avoid this by staff at the club and friends of the Club in our community, we now find ourselves in a groundshare situation. This is beyond regrettable.
"Supporters of Coventry City Football Club are now facing, for a second time, the prospect of enforced groundshare and the decision to attend matches or not - a situation and decision that no football fan should have to ever face.
"We understand the strength of feeling in regard to a groundshare. We wholeheartedly share your feeling that Coventry City should play in Coventry. This decision was our last resort and was made to ensure the Club can fulfil its fixtures next season.
"We would like to thank Birmingham City and their staff for their continued support in this situation, and the wider football community and other sporting clubs who have reached out to offer their assistance.
"Moving forward, we want as many fans as possible to come and support the team while we are playing our matches in Birmingham. However, we recognise that fans will make their own choices to come to games or not – and we encourage every fan to respect the decisions of all other Sky Blues supporters. As a Club we fully understand and respect the difficult choice our fans face, and we know that those who may choose not to attend, do so with a heavy heart and still in full support of their team. We also acknowledge the fact that fans who do attend may not endorse the ground share situation, but are there to support their team.
"We encourage every fan to come to watch Mark Robins’s team continue to build on the successes of 2018/2019. Mark and his staff have already recruited strongly, with five additions to date and more players lined up to join the squad. After just missing out on the Play-Offs last season, the aim is to have a team on the pitch that all our supporters can be proud of and to push for promotion once more.
"Details regarding 2019/20 Season Tickets and other arrangements will be confirmed shortly."
Birmingham City FC said:
"The Sky Blues will play their home games at the St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium. The move is necessary to ensure Coventry City fulfill their fixtures and therefore retain their status in the EFL.
"Coventry's situation in regard the Ricoh Arena is a complex one and we have every sympathy for their plight, and that of their supporters.
"Birmingham City has been in talks with Coventry City for a number of weeks about the ground share and we always felt it important to try and help and support our neighbours, as part of the wider footballing family in this region, however we could. We will work closely with Coventry City to ensure the matchday experience at the St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium is as enjoyable and welcoming as possible in the coming season.
"Further details about the ground share will be released in due course by the clubs."
A statement from the EFL said:
"The EFL Board accepts that it may be asked on occasions to consider a temporary relocation as a means for securing a Club’s ongoing participation in the competition.
"However, it remains firmly of the view that its Member Clubs should play in the towns and cities from which they take their name.
"Despite ongoing discussions to keep Coventry City playing in the City of Coventry at the Ricoh Arena, an agreement has not been reached and as a result the EFL Board was faced with the real prospect of the Club not being able to fulfil its fixtures for 2019/20 season, which would inevitably have called into question the Club’s continued membership in the League.
"This situation has placed the EFL Board in an unenviable position and as a result, it has reluctantly agreed to a ground-share option at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium for 2019/20.
"This is a decision that has not been taken lightly and it is regrettable that the parties involved have been unable to find a suitable and sensible solution. The EFL Board calls on all parties to resolve this matter at the earliest convenience for the benefit of the City of Coventry, the Club and people living in the local community.
"A number of conditions have been placed on the Club to ensure progress is made in regard to finding a solution to getting the Club back playing in Coventry at the earliest opportunity including the payment of a £1m bond and a quarterly review in order for the Board to be updated on developments ahead of season 2020/21.
"The EFL has also received an undertaking from the Club’s ownership that they will not put forward an application to the EFL Board to permanently relocate the Club to anywhere outside the Coventry area."
Football club owners SISU said:
"As previously reported, Wasps insisted SISU sign a legal undertaking before they would participate in discussions with CCFC. SISU signed this undertaking in April to irrevocably cease all proceedings against Wasps relating to the sale and lease of the Ricoh Arena. Wasps then entered into commercial discussions with CCFC to allow the Club to continue to play for a limited time; however, not the five years we wanted.
"Following agreement on commercials, Wasps demanded a further agreement to be signed both by the Football Club and SISU. This agreement introduced conditions that would unreasonably restrict the Club and SISU’s basic legal rights and would commit the Club and SISU to underwrite Wasps’ costs and any future damages. This would put the Football Club at great risk and jeopardise its future and in so doing, undermine the hard-work and success the Club has achieved over the past few seasons. Importantly, we were willing to provide an indemnity to confirm we have acted in good faith to the extent Wasps were willing to provide the same; they would not agree to such a clause. Additionally, as negotiations continued, Wasps repeatedly moved further away from their previous stances, indicating they had no desire to agree a deal.
"This is regrettable but under the circumstances an unavoidable position for CCFC; however, SISU remains committed to the long-term success of the Club. Playing in Birmingham is not a decision we would choose or want to make; sadly the decision was made for us. We sympathise with and sincerely apologise to all Coventry City supporters for this and the heartache caused. We have had numerous discussions with Mark Robins to ensure the short-term ground share will provide him with a suitable location to build on last season’s success.
"Unfortunately, the Council’s decision to sell the stadium to Wasps and prevent CCFC from participating in the sale process has empowered Wasps to take this position against CCFC.
"Until Coventry City owns its own stadium, it will be at the mercy of a conflicted landlord, imposing onerous demands and conditions as a requirement for any deal.
"SISU remains committed to providing CCFC with its own stadium in the Coventry area. We are grateful to the EFL for their support and patience in this matter and will continue to work closely with them throughout the planning and development process. We will provide CCFC with all the assistance required to enable the Club to return to the Coventry area, in a stadium it and its fans can again finally call home."
Nick Eastwood, Chief Executive of Wasps Group, said:
“This process has been as frustrating for us, as it has been desperately sad for Coventry City supporters, and as damaging as it is to the city as a whole.
“As everyone is aware, we made it a pre-requisite of talks that the owners would stop pursuing proceedings around the ownership of the Ricoh Arena. We understood the owners shared that desire based on the letter it sent to us.
“Talks began in April and we entered those discussions in good faith. Since then we have been working to get that deal over the line and we did not halt discussions even when it emerged that the owners had filed a complaint to the European Commission as far back as February but not informed us of that.
“Despite significant progress being made in the discussions, we have unfortunately been unable to reach an agreement with the owners which, putting aside the complaint to the European Commission, would deliver the fundamental principle that there would be no further proceedings about the ownership of the Ricoh Arena.
“We have talked to Coventry City supporters groups to underline our position and our desire to keep the club at Ricoh Arena. We would be prepared to continue discussions at any time if the owners are prepared to agree to the principle on which we began these discussions.
“The club wanted to stay at Ricoh Arena, we wanted them to remain here and all supporters’ groups wanted to secure their future here. This is a very sad day for Coventry.”
Joint statement from Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council and Cllr Gary Ridley, Leader of the Opposition Conservative Group, Coventry City Council:
“We share the bitter disappointment of Coventry City fans with today’s announcement by the football club.
“The Council like everyone was hopeful that April’s Supreme Court judgment could lead to a license extension.
“While Coventry City Council has not been party to the negotiations, we understand the endless litigation in its various forms by the football club’s owners remained the barrier for a deal to be agreed.
“It is extremely disappointing that after six years of legal action – that has been tested numerous times in the courts and has been comprehensively dismissed every time – cannot now be dropped to secure the club’s future.
“We urge the football club’s owners to address this situation promptly to ensure the return of the football club to the city at the earliest possible date.”
We've been sent this by David Johnson of campaign group The Jimmy Hill Way:
Today we finally learned that Coventry City FC will not be playing at the Ricoh Arena next season. Instead, our football team will be ground-sharing at St Andrews, the home of Birmingham City FC.
Every supporter will have their own thoughts, emotions and decisions to make regarding this turn of events. One thing I expect that most will agree on is that this is a very dark day in the troubled history of the Sky Blues.
Each supporter has the right to choose whether to follow the club to St Andrews, or to attend away fixtures only, or not to go at all. The right of the individual to make their own decision should be respected, even if it is not a decision with which I, you or others agree. I am sure that members of the Jimmy Hill Way will arrive at differing decisions, though I doubt that many of us will be making trips to Brum.
On a personal note, I will not be watching “home fixtures” in Birmingham, for the same reasons that I never stepped foot inside Sixfields during the first period of exile. For me, it’s not Coventry City if the team is not playing in the City of Coventry. The difference with this time around is I doubt that I will attend away games or protest outside St Andrews, as I did on the Hill at Northampton. Sisu’s appalling record of stewardship of CCFC, since December 2007, has finally destroyed my love and affection for the club. Wherever people think the blame lies or should be apportioned for this latest disaster, for homelessness to strike City twice in 6 years during the ownership of Joy Seppala and “leadership” of Tim Fisher is inexcusable and unforgivable. In my opinion, both episodes were entirely avoidable.
Dave Boddy may be excused by some supporters and it may be argued that the club Chief Executive has done his best in difficult circumstances. It may be considered unfortunate that this is not the first time that a club under his management has gone into exile, as he presided over a similar calamity when he was Chairman at Worcester City. That is not a record to be proud of.
Therefore, after more than 40 years of watching and following the Sky Blues, I am choosing to walk away from the grief and emotional turmoil that it has entailed, particularly during the Sisu era. I have some great memories of fantastic games, particularly at Highfield Road in the top tier of English football, great players and managers, smashing goals and those special days at Wembley in 1987, 2017 and 2018. To all who contributed to those wonderful experiences, I am truly grateful, especially to my fellow supporters and friends with whom I shared so many happy days.
Sadly, under current ownership, directorship and off-field management, the unhappy times are far outnumbering the good moments. When you are no longer enjoying something, particularly a leisure activity, it’s time to stop.
I hope that new owners, people who truly love Coventry City, who value the supporters and the whole Sky Blues Community, will eventually take control at CCFC. When that day arrives, I may be able to renew my ties to our football club.
Until then, my fellow Sky Blues …. Goodbye and Thanks for the Memories."