The performances on the pitch are sensational, but the arguments off it persist, and the moral assertions remain. There’s a suggestion we’re not even allowed to watch Sky anymore. How can we as fans address the situation in a matter than can actually have some impact?

I’ve had a go at figuring this out before, but it’s bloody hard. In a similar attempt to reach sense, Coventry fan and writer Tom Furnival-Adams has used the time on his sickbed to assimilate his thoughts.


By Tom Furnival-Adams

Four home games into the season and the Sixfields groundshare is now a vivid reality. While the team has been an absolute credit to both itself and manager Steven Pressley, there are still deep-seated issues at the club. Attendances are at a record low, and the infighting amongst fans is deeply regrettable. Having vowed to boycott Sixfields – a stance which I continue to observe – I am now faced with the consequences of that. The administration process is close to completion, and it feels appropriate to take a look at things afresh; to reconsider what our intentions as fans are, and how we might go about achieving them.

Overwhelmingly, I feel, the first step must be compromise. Between ACL and Sisu; between those boycotting the games and those attending Sixfields; between the notion that we are by rights a top flight cub with a 32,000 seater stadium, and the fact that we could viably cease to exist if fortune does not conspire in our favour.

Now is a time for re-evaluation. Previously my thinking was anchored in the assumption that Sisu would not carry through their threat to leave the Ricoh, that this was all a petty game of one-upmanship. It turns out that they were serious. The landscape has changed and so too must our approach to salvaging our football club.

The second step is unity within the fanbase. The mudslinging between the hardcore ‘Sisu out’ crowd and those who see attending Sixfields as simply ‘supporting the lads’ is pitiful. Regardless of our own feelings, we have to be more tolerant of those who disagree. No one is an oracle of knowledge or moral righteousness. I think it’s wrong to go to Sixfields because it legitimises the move and disincentives the owners from a) returning the club to Coventry and b) any urgency in doing so. This does not mean I am right. It’s possible that I am starving the club of much-needed revenue, and in boycotting home games, may be jeopardising its future. I can only do what I feel is right, just as we all can. We need to empathise with each other and harness our power as a collective. Divisions will only weaken us.

Which leads me on to: priorities. What do we want? Sisu out? A return to the Ricoh? A return to Coventry? An investigation into the club’s administration, going right back to the mid-nineties? Beggars can’t be choosers. There is a limit to our influence. Can we force Sisu out through sheer willpower? I don’t think so. I also don’t think that we can starve them out by boycotting Sixfields and observing the ‘Not one Penny More’ philosophy.

As things stand, the priority must surely be to return the club to Coventry. I can tolerate Sisu’s stewardship, but I can’t and won’t stand by idly while our club plays its home games 35 miles away. It’s disrespectful, destructive, and unacceptable.

I also aspire toward transparency. We still don’t know what Sisu’s plan is. We are yet to be illuminated on the proposed new stadium; but perhaps even more importantly, we don’t know what Sisu’s ultimate aim is.

To make back the money they’ve lost on sustaining the club since taking it over – plus the revenue lost throughout the Sixfields move and that spent on a new stadium – it could conceivably take decades: and that’s assuming that the team is relatively successful. What happens if we drop down to non-league? Is all this debt being saddled on to the club in the form of loans owed back to Sisu/Otium? If so, does the cub really have a viable future if it does not return to the Ricoh?

The cynic in me feels that, if Sisu have a realistic, healthy plan for the future of the club, they would be keen to showcase it. If Sisu are to ever win our trust, they must be honest with us.

ACL, too, owe the fans transparency. What was the intended outcome of failing to sign the CVA? The ten point deduction we received going into this season could still end up being the difference between promotion or, indeed, relegation.

There is still so much uncertainty that it is vital that we continue re-evaluating things and questioning our actions. Boycotting Sixfields feels right to me at the moment, but stubbornness is not productive.

If we are stuck with Sisu, it is not inconceivable that their interests will eventually align with those of the fans. If they do produce a viable plan to return to Coventry and a return to the Ricoh looks impossible, boycotting Sixfields begins to look counter-productive. Equally, if Sisu go down a road of evasiveness and deception, it would feel utterly wrong to legitimise the Sixfields move by attending.

We must also not forget those who physically or financially can no longer watch the team because Northampton is simply too far away. We owe it to them to oppose the groundshare if it is avoidable.

And that is the question that continues to bother me. Is it avoidable? I try to empathise with all stakeholders. Do Sisu have an alternative? Have all options been exhausted? Without being party to any negotiations that have taken previously between Sisu and ACL, it is very hard to say with any certainty. Again, it is imperative that we keep an open mind.

We must resist the temptation to attribute blame to one party or the other; ACL or Sisu. Play devil’s advocate at all times. Consider every eventuality and don’t always go with instinct. What is clear to me now is that any protest must be aimed at all parties. The days of #SisuOut are in the past, because forcing Sisu out seems beyond the capabilities of the fans. The spinelessness of the Football League and the FA has shown that we are on our own, and we simply don’t have the power to overthrow our owners – look at Blackburn and Newcastle.

A successful outcome can only arise from pressurising all parties to compromise and negotiate.

Boycotting Sixfields is a legitimate (and in my view the most powerful) way of sending out a message to Sisu, but the boycott doesn’t have to be the solitary course of action. It is possible to be anti-Sisu AND anti-ACL. We, the fans, have one shared interest, and that is Coventry City Football Club. The priority in the short-term, in this set of circumstances, is a) to return the club to Coventry, and b) secure its future.

It is feasible that that future may incorporate Sisu’s ownership and their proposed new stadium – if Sisu are serious, they may be our best option of securing a future for the football club in Coventry.

Equally, the aims may be achieved by new ownership and a compromise being reached with them and ACL – or even the sale of the Ricoh to new owners. Who knows, it may not even be beyond the realms of possibility that Sisu could still purchase the Ricoh. The eventualities are endless, and we simply do not possess the knowledge nor foresight to be black-and-white in our mindset and in our actions.

I am categorically not ‘pro-Sisu’, and my instinct is not to trust them as far as a I can throw them. But my instinct four years ago was that Nick Clegg seemed like a decent bloke. Circumstances change.

I am also not ‘pro-ACL’. Likewise, my views have changed in accordance with the evolution of events. ACL’s actions over the past six months have shown that we cannot trust them with our football club’s future. Their interests are purely commercial, and to have claimed otherwise is plain wrong.

As fans we must remember that we are Coventry City supporters. That is all. Our priority must be to negotiate this bizarre landscape in order to safeguard the club for ourselves and for future generations. That can only be achieved by keeping an open mind, by sticking together as a group, and by constantly re-evaluating this mess.

29 comments

  1. Very well assessed. Probably mirrors my way of thinking now. An open mind is essential, but as you say that equally applies to all parties. It is that uncertainty and no clear way out that is killing supporters. All parties should come clean as to what they are thinking and elucidate proposals of resolving the mess. At least this could be done as a basis of any negotiations.

    1. Excellent evaluation. CCC have to sell on the basis of CCFC taking the Ricoh instead of building a rival stadium – CCC should recoup the £10m + recent £14m they have invested. THEY SHOULD NOT get the value of the sale to Tescos or grants – that is a benefit of the stadium development that would be echoed in SISU building a rival stadium. SISU have realised that if the council continue to resist they can simple do it all over again with another development. CCFC is the generator of the profitability!

  2. Agree whole heartedly with you on most issues. I had hoped that the fans would “all sing together” and not go to Sixfields but not to be. These are extreme-times and require extreme measures, so I’m proud of those who boycott for taking a true stand. Still of the belief that SISU are a business and have no loyalty to the City of Coventry whatsoever and will relocate if they find a suitable catchment area and no one will stand in their way, except the fans and by then it will be too late.

  3. My thoughts & feelings exactly, I live far closer to Sixfields than the Ricoh, but can’t sanction playing out of Coventry by attending home matches. Of course the better the team play the worse it makes my stand, but I’ve stated I won’t go and i won’t.
    I just hope this whole embarrassing fiasco can be resolved one way or the other in the very near future, but i won’t hold my breath !!

  4. Very well written article, agree with nearly all of it. We must try to respect all different views from the fans, it is very disappointing to see the split in the fans. I and many others are surprised at the number of fans going to Sixfields, I thought it would be hundreds rather than 1500. Some of the reason, is that the team are playing well, entertaining and scoring goals. The Manager has also done a very good job and 99% of the time concentrates on the playing side, I think that is a big factor. But I for one would love to see a fans run club eventually, but I am being very honest in saying, I don’t see that at the moment, because most hard core City fans are still very much supporting the players, and I would be surprised if we see a proper fans club emerge. Many supporters are going up the Rugby, Ice Hockey etc.

  5. A well thought out answer to a real question: what should we as loyal Coventry fans actually do? Will anything make a difference?

    Well, loyalty to the club, open-mindedness and the readiness to accept we may be wrong in our views probably are necessary qualities when there are so many vast unknowns bearing on the future of our club.

    Not the least of these unknowns is what happens when two companies who aren’t interested in football fight it out over a football club…

  6. Very well written, I think the important point in this is that you don’t have to take sides, you can give an even handed appraisal of our situation, it’s not just Sisu; bad, ACL; good. I, like you never thought we’d end up playing outside of Coventry and I cannot sanction the fact we have through going to games at Sixfields. I certainly don’t go along with the view that not going is starving the club of money and I am part of the problem, the problem was created and we are the ones who have to react to it and live with our decisions.

    I hope that our return to Coventry is brought about swiftly be that with sisu or anyone else. Commercial interest has brought our club to this without any consideration for the fans. It will be another commercial decision that brings us back, I hope it’s made soon.

  7. A good article, but is it an apology and an excuse to go to Northampton I don’t know, I am missing Saturday afternoons just as much? What is clear to me is that the Brandon deal wont happen, speedway have the rights for 10 years, so that’s a none starter. To me Sisu intentions are now clear and obvious, they want the Ricoh cheap, they are in the hope that ACL will go bump as well and they can get it cheap. What other reason is there for them hanging onto a club with no assets and a weekly financial burden. The only people gaining from the Sixfields deal is NTFC in the extra income it gives, by not attending both Sisu and Sixfields will lose out, why should NTFC want to renew a deal that is not gaining anything other than hassle for them.
    On the return to Coventry, yes that has to be a priority, but as a Coventry tax payer, I want to see my money back from the investment in ACL, I don’t want to see it go bust, fill it with another sport if needed, but do something with it, even a car boot on a Sunday, better than the gypsys that were camped there last week.
    Im sorry and I know its tough on the players, but NOPM sounds good to me, Sisu were fully aware of any deal they signed all that time ago and they knew the clubs lack of success, any good business practice should of considered that before buying. Sisu, you are dealling with people from a proud City, not a bunch of numpty’s who will follow you like rats. Sell what you have, get something back the whole football world thinks its disgraceful what has happened here and I think the same.

  8. I have to say that I’m with Rob on this. The only motive that I can SISU having is to get the Ricoh on the cheap. Having tried and failed through other means, I see this as the last throw of the dice for SISU. It has shown that it doesn’t give a damn about the supporters and through its operations to date has demonstrated that it is not to be trusted. However well the team is doing, I will not go to Sixfields an I feel that the only way to be rid of SISU is to starve of income. Although ACL may not be completely blameless (who is in this sorry saga) it appears that it has been the only one willing to negotiate. However it takes two to tango and SISU has demonstrated a completely amoral approach so far. Unless there is a complete change from SISU, I for one will never trust it to look after the best interests of the club and its supporters.

  9. Good article, agree with a lot of what has been written and i think another question should be asked of the football league not just for Coventry City’s case but for the whole of football in this country. If SISU get away with this whats stopping other owners/investors moving ‘their’ clubs to suit their needs with no thought of the supporter. The whole process is bent everyone knows it but because of SISU’S financial clout they are running scared and what’s the betting they threatened the Football League with action because they league rules are flawed.

  10. For the past four years, through Facebook and various online forums, I have voiced my opinion on SISU and what I believe has always been their intent with little to no feedback, positive or negative. I think people find it incomprehensible that a company could take over a club with the intention of taking it into liquidation in order to acquire (in this case) the Ricoh Arena which is what I believe has always been their goal. How could a company do that with such scant disregard for people? Seriously! The financial crisis around the world answers that question. Financial institutions are greed driven. There is no such thing as enough and people are collateral damage. Suppose they did in fact buy the Ricoh and did what they did when we were in the championship, refused to strengthen the team and sell off the best players, and we freefall down to non league status? What could the Football League do? Nothing. The league only seems to be able to punish the football team and in return the fans not the owners and if the owners don’t care there are no consequences. At all cost this group must never be allowed to buy the Ricoh. It would be a disaster when the question is posed “Will the club owe SISU millions if it is sold?” My question is “Who would own it?” Doesn’t SISU own the club? The football league had their opportunity to stop this farcical takeover with Otium when the fit and proper rule came into play and they didn’t. I feel we stand alone and it can only be the people who will have to continue putting pressure on these unscrupulous soul less group until someone comes to our rescue.

  11. Be careful not to overblow the split between fans, it’s a red herring. 80-90% of supporters are unified one way or another by not going to Sixfields, that’s as good a show of support as any campaign could possibly hope for in a democracy. Even the vast majority there would rather us not be, playing back in Coventry is a near universal desire. The point is as you note, complaining at Sisu or not attending the matches does little to bring that day any nearer, as more people are starting to realise.

  12. some very good points have been made by a lot of people I personally go along with the thoughts that sisu have no interest with the club and only want the stadium (they are an hedge fund and as far as I know hedge funds look for cheap investments ) so if they lose 1o million or so on the way to acquiring the stadium and then get it for say 60 million that is 20 or so million profit not a bad bit of business so it seems like the winner will be whoever can hold out longest In the meantime the fans are going to be the losers, A point I would like to ask is how much did Tesco and the other retailers pay for the land they sit on I heard it was 6o million if so where has that money gone The one thing I think we cannot do is drift back to sixfields in small numbers cos every time sisu see an increase in COV FANS they will think they are winning and to that end while a can see the fans who do go point of view it could turn out in the long run to be the worst thing they could do The Ironic thing is we probably have one of the most exciting sides and manager in a long time

  13. I have said all along we should protest against ACL, they would be the first to buckle under public pressure and NO one else has come up with the money to take the club forward. If the hoff had the cash he would be our new owner and we would be playing in Cov but unfortunately were not!

  14. Extremely well assessed with all the problems of CCFC summed up but , has anyone considered the positive prospect that CCFC are promoted from league 1 this season ? What happens then ? Sixfields isn’t good enough for the championship that’s obvious.
    What happens if they are promoted in the following season ? Where do we play then ? Not sixfields that for sure.
    The point is all the negative talk of going down, non league football, fans arguing, old bad ownership, sisu, otium, ACL, etc. it’s just the sort of thing Coventry City would do isn’t it…. Play great exciting football get promoted to the premier league but no body is there to see it !!!!!!

  15. Just because the team is doing well on the pitch does not mean that we should reassess SISU. They remain an outfit that has no moral scruple when it comes to business practice; knowingly broke the regulations of the Football League and chose to hide it; appointed an administrator to sell the club to itself with a self-imposed points deduction last season; have been criticised by a High Court judge of their actions in refusal to pay the rent of an agreement known about when they purchased the club; and Otium have been advised that it is unacceptable not to file accounts; and have willingly taken the club away from its city without any strategy for its return. It is only because the Football League is weak and incompetent (being charitable) that this has been allowed.
    Therefore it is clear to me what we need: SISU out. That has to be the basis of our actions.
    We need to ensure that the media does not lose sight of the actions of SISU and I do hope that reputable journalists pick up the challenge before the momentum is lost.
    We need the FL to implement its agreed strategy for cleaning the game up; we need the FA to act responsible; and we need DCMS to impose pressure on the FL.
    We need our MPs to continue with their work and escalate it.
    We need to boycott Sixfields and fill the away end at away games.
    We must be prepared for the long haul. We must not drift back.
    To paraphrase: it only needs good City fans to assume it is a fait accompli for SISU to remain that evil will flourish.

  16. Well said Rob, SSB and Mick Lynch. Let’s not forget that the reason we were relegated I because SISU gave no funds to buy players, we sold Turner, Gunnarsson and Westwood and replaced them with 2 goalkeepers! They want the Ricoh and were trying to buy it at the same time as refusing to pay the rent! I also agree that the division between fans is being over egged. 1500 fans out of a possible 10k? We’ve had more fans at away games this season. I won’t go to Sixfields, not now, not ever!

  17. I don’t do NOPM to try and starve out SISU. I do it because I choose not to line the pockets of a bunch of crooks who don’t care about me as a supporter. I know they don’t care but it makes me feel better.

  18. Good analysis.
    Analyse, we may, but the only power that we, as fans, have, is to withhold ourselves and our money. Sisu clearly want to buy the Ricoh. They want to own a stadium and they will never give up on that goal. However, I really can’t see that they will ever get investment to build a new stadium with no fan base. Building a new stadium has surely got to be a big bluff…
    Who will crack first? ACL or Sisu?
    I think, as someone else said, that when we are back in the Championship, and that seems a distinct possibility, they may be forced to re-evaluate whether they begin negotiations again with ACL.

  19. I don’t know the answer but it appears to me that SISU will either buy the Ricoh for peanuts (which will never happen), or it will sell the club as it is making itself a profit (which will never happen) or it will destroy the club out of spite (staying at Sixfield will likely achieve this in the long term) or finally it will compromise with ACL and come home to the Ricoh. To get the club to the Ricoh, SISU would want to be shown that they will profit substantially from this move. ACL has council tax payers money so cannot give it away and will never go into liquidation. ACL wants CCFC to play there but can survive without it. CCFC need to play in Coventry which has to be the Ricoh and cannot survive without the fans. Not sure how that helps, just pointing out the obvious.

  20. It is all about money. Otium/Sisu legally own the club and ACL legally own the Ricoh.
    The fans are the real ‘beneficial’ owners of the club. No show, no revenue. It is as simple as that.
    So my question to both parties is why are you continuing to treat the fans as if they are nothing more than cannon fodder whilst you fight each other into the workhouse?

  21. Rob and all those who agree with Rob, I don’t disagree with the sentiment behind thoughts, I share the same frustrations.
    Questions
    -if the stadium/land is such an attractive proposition then why hasn’t anyone snapped it up?
    -why would a hedge fund want to write off tens of thousands of pounds a week for several years in order to gain some land?
    Could it be Council owned land that is being held for a King’s ransom? Virtually all councils up and down the land do that kind of thing.
    I think I can recall a BBC radio interview not too long ago when someone stated that a certain company had no interest in the ownership of bricks and mortar. Did anyone else hear it?

  22. Great article from Tom and lots of interesting comments. It’s a real ‘scunner’ isn’t it? The team are playing great – we’ve got the best squad and best manager that we’ve had in years (I’d say since Gordon Strachan’s tenure way back when). Yet we can’t go and support them at ‘home’ because for some it is logistically impossible and for others morally wrong ( and for many both!).
    I am a Sky Blue exile based in rural North Norfolk so I can’t get to games whether they are played in Cov or the place that we don’t mention. But I sympathise with everyone’s dilemma.
    Please keep the boycott strong fellow Sky Blues. The attendance for the destruction of Gillingham was up on that for the previous week’s demolition of Colchester. The team are playing exciting football – the desire to watch them is understandable. Please be firm and don’t go! The national press are picking up on the fact that no-one is going to watch an exciting side play their ‘home’ games.
    Let’s get as many folk as possible at Port Vale for this Saturday’s match. It’s not much further to travel than going to the ‘N’ place. As everybody knows this would be a top of table clash but for all the nonsense.

  23. Agree wholeheartedly that fans should agree to disagree and remain united. This is vital. SISU would love to divide and conquer. I disagree elsewhere. Compromise is simply not possible, SISU do not do that. They buy up distressed organisations then take up a position (.refusal to pay rent) and do not move. they are a toxic company. we may have to accept a new stadium as long as it is in the bounds of Coventry. Let us just hope that they are after all playing hard ball. I think not.

  24. Agree this is a very balanced article and puts all the main points forward. However I have to agree with Rob and others and release the cynic in me by saying that this is all about hard business, and very little about the football, and even less about the fans! Businesses are by and large not transparent entities, and with this in mind SISU and ACL have been playing a cat and mouse game! If SISU are intent on gaining the Ricoh I can’t imagine them succeeding, and the only way forward to resolve the current situation is agreeing a worthwhile deal on playing at the Ricoh for the foreseeable future. The main question now is how long will this take?

  25. A good article well thought out. I have to agree with the majority on here, SISU are looking at the long term goal. With the current property crisis, albeit starting to pick up, that land around the Ricoh will be worth more in the future so a long term vision from a hedge find that couldn’t make more than £1million pound last year clearly shows that the losers will be the debt heaped on the club. Lets not forget, according to the FL, SISU refinanced Otium after they got the Golden Share which is out what the Council did for ACL.

    SISUs support for the fans was evident when the Owner (the mysterious Joy) went on holiday, sorry “prearranged business trip” 2 days before the final Creditors meeting.

    One final point, we didn’t sell Westwood, Gunnarson etc, their contracts lapsed after offers were rejected in the previous transfer window and they moved as free agents.

  26. The desire and reasons to keep away from Northampton are totally understandable. I’ve supported the Sky Blues since 1960, over 50 years but now live in Devon, so can’t attend home games. If I could I guess I would be one of the people on the hill.

    My worry is that SISU could well start to say they need to sell players because of the reduced income streams.

    My main question is whether an option would be for ACL to charge the same rent as NTFC, the Sky Blues to go back to The Ricoh as short term tenants whilst SISU develop their so called new stadium. After a whilst things would settle and then decisions made on sound, rather than emotive, grounds.

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