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COVENTRY called their groundshare with Birmingham a “very sad day” for the club, the local community and the fans.
It was announced today that the League One club will be forced to play at St Andrew’s next season as the legal dispute between owners Sisu and Premiership rugby club Wasps, who own the City of Coventry stadium, persists.
The English Football League said it had reluctantly agreed to Coventry’s groundshare to ensure the club retained their EFL membership.
“Coventry City Football Club can confirm that it will groundshare at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium for the 2019/20 season,” read a statement on the Sky Blues’ official website.
“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 groundsharing 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.”
Coventry’s owner Sisu has taken its legal complaint over the sale of the City of Coventry Stadium to Wasps, in 2014, to the European Commission.
As a result, Wasps said last month that they will not enter into talks with Coventry over their continued use of the stadium.
Wasps have always insisted that Sisu, which believes the sale of the stadium was illegal, must drop its challenge in the courts as a precursor to negotiations over a new agreement.
Coventry added: “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.”
The Football League said if Coventry had been unable to fulfil their fixtures, the club’s continued league membership would have been called into question.
“This situation has placed the EFL Board in an unenviable position and as a result, it has reluctantly agreed to a groundshare option at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium for 2019/20,” read a Football League statement.
“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.”
The Football League confirmed Coventry had paid a £1 million bond and would complete quarterly reviews to keep the governing body updated on developments.
Coventry had also given the Football League an undertaking that their owners Sisu would not apply to permanently relocate the club outside the Coventry area.
Wasps Group chief executive Nick Eastwood later expressed frustration at the situation but said he remained open to negotiations being resumed.
“We have talked to Coventry City supporters groups to underline our position and our desire to keep the club at Ricoh Arena,” he said.
“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.”
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