As much as I try to avoid the non football-related stuff, they (the suits) are making it ruddy impossible to ignore. It frustrates me, but some of the big talk over the last fortnight requires our attention.
The latest we’re being asked to get our heads around is this idea that we could move to Nene Park in Northamptonshire (or somewhere equally as ridiculous) if we can’t come to an agreement with ACL over the rent. As I write this, the latest statement claims they’re back to talking to each other, but that position appears to be changing daily.
Whether genuine, feasible, or even acceptable to the Football League, what they’ve done is still place into the consciousness of every supporter a fundamental and frankly unfair question: Would you follow Coventry City if they were moved away?
And not down the road or somewhere else in the City either. We’ve done that already. We’re talking about moves to Nene Park, or Hinkley, or eastern Benin.
The CET have already done a quick poll on this, but you guys who read this blog are different, and deserve your own special focus.
“What about you Monsieur Sky Blues Blog? What do you think about the current situation?” I hear you ask.
“Well, it’s nice to see you care” (Neil quipped).
I wouldn’t go. I didn’t sign up for the gypsy football supporter lifestyle – I signed up to the notion of a local team.
Also, we had a home, then we moved to brand spanking new one with loads of sky blue seats, a club shop, and our name fucking written all over it. That’s enough. We can’t bugger off again to a place where nobody could even begin to point out on a map. It’d be a completely unforgivable situation.
I know there are financial realities to be acknowledged, but failing to find a solution to this rent is not an option, and I hope all we’re seeing is a PR war. Let’s not forget, this isn’t a recent problem either. The rent hasn’t become obscenely high overnight – this has been hanging over the club since we moved into the Ricoh and that contract was signed.
We’ve always known that there was a risk we could be relegated to League One. It wasn’t our aim, but neither was it Man City’s, Stoke’s, Southampton’s, Leeds’, or anyone else’s. But it happens, and the negotiations to arrange a rent reduction in the event of a relegation scenario surely should have begun and been agreed a long time ago.
We don’t know who has been responsible for that, and maybe those talks have been taking place ever since Sisu arrived – but I don’t necessarily care if they have. Because we’re still here, 6 years on, and nobody has sorted it.
People blame those who signed the deal, and yes, it was madness. But I can’t help but feel a similar rage at the incompetence of a by-gone regime that’s allowed this rental situation to simmer along for 6 years, completely unaltered. As annoyed as football fans are obligated to get at anyone in a leadership role, the one thing that the current board has done since they took the reigns is to work towards getting the rent down. That would appear to put them one up on the rest of them, but that intention is not enough anymore. Not when they’ve already done the hard work and negotiated a substantially lower annual rent. Now they have to see it through and not mess things up the fans.
Even I can see that they’re simply not going to get a reduction that’s exactly in line with what other League One clubs pay, mainly because we’re not playing at a League One venue. We’re playing at the Ricoh Arena – a Premiership stadium in every respect.
I suppose this is why they might be contemplating a move away, because we can’t afford such a huge stadium right now. But what happens in the future? Do we just turn up two years down the line, knock on the door and ask them to put all the naming back in again?
Also, if we can afford to have a wage structure that allows for players like David Bell and Kevin Kilbane to suckle away at 150-200k a year contracts, then surely they should have enough slack to account for the £400k offer that’s on the table. OK, that’s a very simplistic assumption, but if the figures of the latest rejected deal are correct, you’ve got to think it’s a deal they need to take. From where I’m sitting their options are:
- The lunacy of doing absolutely nothing: Pay no rent because it’s too much and end up getting booted out and possibly wound up.
- Agree to the rent restructuring that’s been offered. Put an end to this saga and allow the supporters and team to fully focus on what is a potentially flourishing campaign. Attendances are already showing signs of increasing with the recent good form. OK, the rent costs may be higher than they’d hoped, but an improvement in team performance, attendances and some prudent squad trimming will surely offset that.
- Hold out for something better. The uncertainly rumbles on, the fans’ attention continues to be diverted and goodwill towards the club remains wholly negative. The club also racks up even more rental payments in arrears, and risks being such a pain in the arse for the Ricoh owners that they get us booted out (which let’s face it, no party wants to happen). It might mean they end up with something lower, but it’s quite a gamble to take. Not only with the stadium owners, but also with fans’ patience.
- Sod the Ricoh rent and move to another ground. This would mean an almighty upheaval for everyone; goodwill would fall to an all-time low; performances could well dwindle as a result, as well as attendances and ticket revenue. Plus, they could still have a £1million bill to foot in some form if they walk away voluntarily. On top of all that, without knowing the rules behind it, surely there’ll also be calls for refunds to thousands of season ticket holders? Would this reach higher than the £400k the owners of the Ricoh want in rent for the season? Well if you consider a scenario where 2000 fans ask for a 50% refund on their season ticket, that’s 300k alone. That figure could be more. That cost could be more. We may not even be entitled to any rebate at all, but if that is the case, they surely have to consider the immediate costs associated with that.
And that’s just the views of me; a beleaguered fan who knows very little about football finance, and yet is being forced into trying to understand what’s going on because of a situation that threatens his very support for the club.
I’m a normal bloke and football business management isn’t my game. It’s not why I support City or watch football. I do so because they’re my local team, and I have a genuine passion for the sport. I play it; I watch it. I know loads about what happens on the pitch; but the money side, stadium mortgages and politics, not so much. That’s the way I want it to stay and that’s the way I think it should be.
But back to the question of the day: What about you? Would you as a Coventry City fan follow the team even if they moved to a land far, far away.[poll id=”9″]