Coventry City will next season be playing their home games in Northampton. To the sane observer it’s a decision smothered in contempt for supporters, needless drama and irrational behaviour. So how exactly did we get here? Let’s recap, if only to emphasise the stupidity.

Sisu no longer want to do business with ACL, because ACL told them they wouldn’t negotiate any further, because Sisu reneged on a deal they’d apparently agreed, because ACL’s offer to adjust the rent wasn’t good enough.

Sounds silly. But there’s more.

ACL enforced administration, because Sisu didn’t pay their rent, because ACL’s rent was too high, because Sisu couldn’t negotiate properly.

Ridiculous, isn’t it. What next?

Sisu complicated the structure, contrived a new company, won back the company they’d placed into administration; all while developing a new plan to bugger off from the Ricoh and agreeing to groundshare with Northampton Town in the interim, against everyone’s wishes.

ACL in the meantime offered to let the club play for free at the stadium, providing it remains in administration, knowing full well that staying in administration is madness and the last thing the owners (whoever they may be) would be looking to do.

And on it goes, with plenty more financial, political and legal issues scattered around, adding to the lunacy.

Simple?

Of course not. This is an absolutely bleeding nightmare.

I’ve thrown the argument every which way but loose, and still I can’t articulate the complexities of it. On the face of it, Sisu are bastards. Sure, that’s a nice and simple synopsis. But for me, the key to gaining complete understanding of how it’s got this far is to gain some sort of understanding behind their warped thinking.

And I don’t mean conjecture. I don’t mean “Oh they’re money-grabbing gits”. They may be doing little to quash that idea – but it’s not helpful here. We all have opinions about them, but I’m not sure all of these decisions are solely about money. I believe there are human decisions in play too – revolving around individual ego, pride, and a seemingly unwavering belief that what they’re doing is correct.

Sisu wanted to get a better deal, but true to form, were incapable of negotiating it sensibly and messed everything up. They are now playing silly beggars with our club and one of the hubs of the city’s entire community. Maybe it’s the world’s biggest bluff; but they seem deadly serious. Either way, they’re raising utter havoc right now and are edging closer to destroying the very essence of our football club – its local pride and identity.

ACL on the other hand misjudged the control they had over the situation, attempted to force the issue, and have provoked this hideously dramatic response. Some may say it was an enforced reaction, but you could also argue that it was miscalculated and ill-timed. Either way, it was the catalyst for what we have today.

These two remind me of feuding siblings with their clandestine mischief and stirring – two naughty boys who are an absolute nightmare to get to behave – even though they act in very different ways. One pokes and prods to see if they can annoy the other one into retaliation, then as soon as they manage it, off they go squawking to mummy about how bad their brother is. In the end they both get a bit of ticking off, but essentially get away with it because mum can’t be arsed to figure out who’s in the wrong. Nobody wins, even though the little git who’s doing all the winding up in the first place is the one who deserves a (metaphorical) good hiding.

There are so many conflicting elements to the disagreement, but if I dig to the core of my understanding, I’m left looking at a situation borne out of stubbornness. We won’t be playing at the Ricoh again next season as long as Sisu play on this belief that ACL have shut them out. They have this bloody letter which says at much – and they won’t stop harking on about it.

Clearly it is difficult for these two parties to negotiate after everything that’s happened. ACL claim to be open to more discussions, but looking at this through the dark eyes of Sisu – can you imagine a situation when they’d be keen to talk to people who sent them off to the High Court? It’s hard.

There’s a mix of pride and anger at play between both parties, but if we’re ever to find a solution which sees us back at the Ricoh in time for the new season (I’m afraid this means ignoring the Sisu out stuff at the moment – we have to pick our battles) – somehow these two have to stop being such babies. They’re dealing with the hopes of a City here. Brinkmanship, “Chicken” – whatever the hell you want to call it – it’s gone too far. These two companies must re-open negotiations immediately. The time to fix this is now.

Someone with clout – that surely has to be the Council, Football League or the FA – needs to stand up and take this opportunity to mediate the situation; not open up the interpretation of their rules to accommodate it or avoid a tricky situation.

That mediation – in whatever form it takes – absolutely has to take place if we’re to arrive at a sane resolution. If that is in the short-term, fine, but that resolution needs to be clearly focused on getting our club back at the Ricoh Arena in time for next season; you know, that stadium in Coventry with our name painted all over the bastard furniture.

It may sound simple, but that’s because it is. They’re looking around for different solutions and posturing their individual money-making capabilities, but there’s no way either of these organisations can run a sustainable and successful business unless it’s fundamentally built around Coventry City Football Club, under mutually agreeable terms, at the Ricoh Arena.

We don’t know the financial detail, but we do know the sanity. That is the only viable option. You’ve had your fun, now just take that option so we can all get back to building upon what was shaping up to be a team we could eventually be proud of.

If you’re not interested in that – then you know where the door is. It’s been open to you for long enough.

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8 comments

  1. Pretty fair summation of the current sisu/ACL spat. For my take listening to Fisher at forum, it is now about the money issue. The offer for remaining at Ricoh sisu seem to think not worth their time. They now want it all. All revenue streams. The best return per pound invested. Early doors I think Sisu main aim was to get ownership of Ricoh. When that scheme looked doomed for them it was game over. Fisher was adamant that their plan to move was fixed. I believe him. Biggest loser is the fans again. The gambling over 3/4 years with the football team is a side show to sisu. The bigger prize is the new stadium and retail/residential units. I cant see how sisu and ACL can resolve any differences because sisu now do not need the Ricoh anymore, the sisu bus is moving off in a different direction right now. Sad.

  2. And I for one will never ever forgive SISU for this whatever happens on the pitch. My 50 year old love affair with all things CCFC is now over and I will not go to anymore home games so long as SISU own the Club. I have been a Season Ticket Holder since Don Howe’s last season but no more, and I mean it. My poor Dad who is 88 cannot understand this and just keeps saying well Son I’ve seen my last game!

  3. There is a much simpler solution and one that all Cov fans have leverage in. Lobby the council to sell/give SISU the Ricoh. Controversial, but allow me to explain.

    1. Fans, the Trust, the media have targeted the wrong party. We have no power over SISU. They are immoveable and have the law and the League and the resources on their side. Resistance is futile.

    2. The Council need you. They need your votes, they need your taxes, they need your labour. March in the council house. Refuse to pay your council tax. Withdraw your services if you work for them. Stop using the buses. Throttle them. Vote for someone else both locally and at general elections. Put up your own candidates. You CAN make the council listen in a way you can’t make SISU.

    3. The council are as much to blame as SiSU. If they want CCFC in Coventry they will listen. They have the power to make it happen.

    4. They may have to write off a lot of money. They may have a mountain of problems cutting other services. Well, they will anyway. They have a white elephant that will go broke at some point anyway. They chose to spend £14m of your money propping up a failing ACL and god knows how much on lawyers fighting SISU. They are a council. They are inept. They have brought this on themselves.

    5. We all get what we want. CCFC at The Ricoh. It also gives SISU a chance to sell up and make their money back if they can sell the stadium and land too. The prospect of them being gone rises dramatically. Hoffman and his cronies have a chance to pay SISU £70m for the lot.

    We may hate our owners but owners being unpopular is not new in football. Getting rid of them will take a concerted community effort. Just take on the guilty party you have a chance of influencing and beating, not the one you can’t.

    1. Nicely put Rich, and I while I think your plan would ultimately work, I feel I should clarify what I meant by “simple”. I recognise getting them to talk is an almighty task, but my point was really that this could all be resolved if they did.

      You might still think that it’s easier to go about and pester the council, but you could argue it’d garner quicker results if we simply refused to attend any games and forced a private company into adjusting its strategy? Both of these measures require the same thing – the concerted community effort you mention – but asking someone not to attend a football match seems far more realistic and means people can still get to work in the morning. Sorry to be flippant, but what you’re suggesting has a range of social issues to overcome – that’s not easy.

      My worry with all of these schemes and campaigns we’re conjuring up is overcoming apathy. Lobbying the Council or Sisu requires genuine action from real people, possibly negatively impacting on their own lives. We’ve already seen over the last 3 or 4 years that we don’t do protest very well, or at least in enough numbers to influence. It’s not a criticism but an observation. Fans are angry, but fans – especially for a club that have offered very little satisfaction – are also lazy. Saying that, fans will also probably make a snap decision to go to Northampton, because fans are lured by the idea of not missing out. We make decisions as individuals because we think that us turning up/not turning up won’t make a difference – when in reality most people think in the same way and before you know it the power of protest is lost.

      What I meant by the piece is that there is a solution available that only requires a handful of people from Sisu and ACL to make some efforts to adjust their mindset – not an entire community. So as much as I agree that channelling all our feelings and disgust is a way to force a decision, that is in fact a long, hard road. Whereas these two companies finally being made to see sense remains in essence the simplest way to get us back to the Ricoh in time for the season. It could take as little as one mediated meeting. Obviously getting these people talking again is the complex part, but they alone can make this right again, really very quickly.

      Sorry, I know it’s a tiny nuance I’m disputing here, but I think it’s a crucial one to help explain my thoughts a little better.

  4. Sorry, my fault for a rather important omission upfront! I’ve sort of taken the view that your solution is not on the table (given all you rightly you say about the characters and emotions involved) and if it is (god, can we hope it isn’t!) then where next? More broadly, the messages coming out of all corners is vitriol and disbelief fired solely at SISU….which to me is not the right direction. SISU don’t care. They want one thing, and one thing only, and that is some form of return on their money, potentially even break even may do now. But they are not walking away. In fact, they have been pretty clear in the last few months what they are going to do (the first time they have been straight and honest and kept their word – oh, the irony). I was startled to see forums claiming Tim Fisher never gave a straight answer at the forums – he completely did, just not one anybody wanted to listen to or thought would happen. So to me, it’s an utter waste of passion and energy to try and get SISU to move now they have complete control of the situation. So to the other half of the equation. I agree that some of my ideas require a mobilisation of people and community. It may not need all of them to play out. It is just my contention that I hold ACL/Council equally as responsible as SISU (more so, on the basis that SISU are a hedge fund and never had any moral or community interest to go by, unlike the people who are meant to care for Coventry).

    The future the council the faces is of their own making; it’s happening now regardless; there is no future for The Ricoh without CCFC, and they have played their hand so badly it’s laughable. So surely they should consider cutting their losses? At some point we know an offer was made from SISU to take on the mortgage, etc. Revisit that. Go back to SISU and give them The Ricoh for the least worst price. SISU would take it – better a cheaper Ricoh than building their own. They relieve themselves of the headache of what to do next. They get us back in Coventry in a year (maybe sooner?) They win back the hearts and minds of the City. They set up a scenario where in 3 years SISU are gone, not one where there are two stadiums within a few miles of each other. They take their humble pie, admit their mistakes and get us our club back. I don’t see how else it happens.

    Indeed – we agree – this takes but a few people to make this happen – but it has to come from the council and if they don’t do it, they need to be pressurized. Nothing will scare them more than the thought of losing power. That’s where the Trust should be focusing their efforts. SISU are now untouchable. “Not a penny more” on council services will be more impactful than on CCFC merchandise. SISU don’t need the fans, the council do.

    Last point though – and one you allude to nicely. Does Coventry really care enough? Lots of talk, but the fact is we had crowds of 11,000 in a city of 390,000. How many marched on SISU a few Saturdays ago? 50? Where is the energy, commitment and drive that we saw from Portsmouth fans? From Wimbledon? From even FC United? I don’t see that movement in those numbers and I think when SISU launch some cushy season ticket packages (cheap and free travel) we will sell out Sixfields, leaving SISU smugger than ever. That’s my hunch.

    I see only one chink of light left – and that is the Council; we have to make them go begging to SISU on our behalf. A SISU owned CCFC at the fully owned Ricoh is surely the only sensible answer? We may not like it, but we’ll be better off for it.

  5. Well done on a good post and some interesting comments. Here’s my take on the situation.

    I don’t blame supporters for jumping to the first and most obvious response to this: Sisu are the bad guys, Tim Fisher (the public face of a faceless corporation) is lower than low, so let’s rid ourselves of them and everything’s rosy again. Well maybe. But, as with most things that are apparently that simple, it’s actually pretty complex beneath the surface and no-one comes out of this too well.

    So how do we move forward? I think Rich/houchen87 (you are one person, right?) has made some excellent points about the council, and I agree that apathy is a massive problem to overcome: like abstaining in elections, boycotting games is easy.

    I would defend the perceived apathy though. However much people try to make the connection, this situation is unique, not another Portsmouth or Wimbledon. Things there got far more desperate. We do still have a club, that has owners and will play its fixtures next season. It has not been abandoned, or relocated in a US-style franchise manner. I think your hunch is right (and, dare I say it, Tim Fisher’s calculations on attendances are spot on) that supporters will drift back if the results are right and they offer a decent package.

    I would love to see fans running the club or at least have a greater say in its running and that is where the Sky Blue Trust should be trying to locate itself. Its embrace of the ‘Not a Penny More’ campaign is rapidly killing that off though. Added to the fact that this campaign is also wholly futile I am sure we will see opposition to the Northampton move dissipate rapidly, and the opportunity to turn this into a more effective campaign – putting pressure on all parties, not just the pantomime villains, will be lost.

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