Talks to keep Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena have stalled - after the club's owners took their legal challenges regarding the venue to the European Commission.
SISU have suffered several court defeats as they sought a judicial review of the stadium's 2014 sale to Wasps. They argued the arena had been undervalued by the council.
The football club's owners recently entered talks with Wasps aimed at agreeing a new deal to play at the Ricoh. The old one expired at the end of the season.
Wasps have now sent us a statement in response to the latest development.
Nick Eastwood, Chief Executive of Wasps Group, said: “As everyone knows, we have consistently maintained over a long period of time that we were happy to sit down with Coventry City to reach agreement over their future at Ricoh Arena, once the club’s owners had agreed to cease all legal action or proceedings surrounding our acquisition and ownership of Ricoh Arena.
“As reported by both parties recently, we entered such discussions in good faith, based on that principle.
“However, we have now been made aware of this complaint to the EU Commission and understand that it was filed in February, well before the discussions set out above were commenced. We further understand that the basis of the complaint to the EU is very similar in all matters of substance to the recent court actions, questions those court decisions and seeks remedial action. Regrettably, this means that the condition set out above for us to enter or continue discussions with CCFC has not been met. The ball is therefore back in the court of CCFC’s owners.
“We believe it is in everyone’s interest that Coventry City play their home games at Ricoh Arena, and we would urge the owners of Coventry City to take steps to make that happen.”
Fans groups have also responded to the news. Here is a statement from the Sky Blue Trust.
"The Sky Blue Trust were appalled by yesterday’s news that, because of a complaint to the European Commission by SISU, filed as long ago as February, talks over a new agreement for the Sky Blues to play home games at the Ricoh have broken down.
"Wasps have been clear that they would only enter such discussions if no legal action relating to the Ricoh was taking place. The discussions started when, in mid-April, the Supreme Court rejected SISU’s latest Judicial Review case. SISU should not be surprised that Wasps reacted strongly to news of the complaint to the EC when it came to light.
"A complaint about an alleged breach of EU law, which may lead to an order by the European Court of Justice requiring repayment of any unlawful state aid is clearly a form of legal action.
"Throughout this dreadful period for Sky Blue fans, the Trust have urged all parties to work together to seek agreement to the continued use by the club of the Ricoh Arena. We had hoped that both sides would enter into discussions in an atmosphere of honesty and transparency. We urge them to resume talks on that basis.
"With 13 days left before the English Football League’s EGM, we implore SISU and Wasps to do everything in their power to resolve their differences. If they fail to do so, the EFL will be considering just two unpalatable options - to agree to Coventry City home games being
played outside the City or to expel the Club from the EFL. We do not know how the EFL will now regard this matter. We do not know whether SISU informed the EFL that they had complained to the European Commission back in February and, if they did not, how that
will affect their decision. We hope and pray that this is not the last straw for Coventry City."
Campaign group the Jimmy Hill Way said, "Sky Blues supporters will be appalled and dismayed at the news of talks having been discontinued between Wasps and Coventry City over playing facilities for the football club the Ricoh Arena. This breakdown stems from Sisu having continued legal processes concerning the sale of the Ricoh, by lodging a complaint with the European Commission. Apparently, this action was not declared to Wasps and breached conditions for negotiations which had commenced 3 weeks ago.
"With now less than 2 weeks until the EFL meet to consider expelling CCFC from the League or an alternative Groundshare outside of Coventry, it is difficult to see a satisfactory outcome for supporters and the wider Sky Blues Community. All the hopes and expectations of a satisfactory conclusion have been dashed.
"Sisu's continued pursuit of legal remedies, despite failing to make a valid case in the UK Courts, now seems certain to prevent a future for Coventry City at the stadium that was built for our club, in the City from which it takes its name."