Coventry City's fortunes have improved off the field under new boss Mark Robins but off the field things look grim. Club chiefs were offered a cut-price rent deal and the chance to keep revenue from food and drinks sold on matchdays at the Ricoh Arena, according to the Coventry Telegraph.
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Stadium company ACL – owned jointly by Coventry City Council and the Higgs charity – also offered to fix the rent for the next three years, and give the club as much as 10 years to pay back the £1.1million in rent arrears.
But after the 11th-hour deal was turned down, ACL this week issued the club with a statutory demand to pay up within 21 days – or face being wound up.
According to the CoventryTelegraph the offer tabled by ACL included pegging any future increases in rent to promotion, and improved match attendances as well as the chance to take what ACL make from match
It was also claimed that two of the three board directors reportedly accepted the terms of the deal but this has since been denied by the club.
The Sky Blues denied claims made by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity – which owns the other half of stadium company Arena Coventry Limited – that two of its directors had wanted to accept ACL’s latest vastly reduced rent offer.
The Sky Blues said the decision was “unanimous”.
Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen, clerk of trustees for the Higgs charity – which had wanted to sell its 50 per cent ACL shares to Sisu before talks broke down – alleged the Sky Blues boardroom was split on the latest rent offer, described as “excellent” by ACL.
He accused the Sky Blues of misleading people that lowered rent was vital to its financial viability, when most of its budget was spent on players’ wages, vastly exceeding income.
He appealed to the Sky Blues to come back to the table over the rent and “become responsible”. He accused Sisu of “blustering and bullying” and putting at risk the Ricoh project for jobs and leisure development around the stadium.
Referring specifically to the details of the offer made by ACL, the club said last night: “
"When we received ACL's letter, we very much appreciated the spirit in which their offer was made. We believed it provided a sound basis for negotiation which we felt would get both parties concerned to arrive at an agreed position to allow us to get on with the really important issue of running our respective organisations in a more positive and productive atmosphere. We therefore immediately asked that we all got round the table to work towards this.
"ACL has, to date, refused to meet with us and went on to issue the statutory demand. Somewhat surprisingly we now find our communications being leaked to the press. We really want to negotiate with ACL to resolve this matter in a professional manner and not conduct arguments in public.
"We have remained consistent in that all we are seeking to do is to bring about a state of commercial normality so that CCFC is not put at a severe disadvantage to the other clubs it competes with. This means having a rent in line with what other League One clubs pay (with an agreed automatic increase in the rent when the Club is promoted), and having access to the same additional football revenues that other clubs have. A rent of £400,000 is still way in excess of the League One norm.
" The Club will never reach its ultimate goal of being financially stable along with having a strong competitive squad under the new manager Mark Robins unless the rent is brought in line with other League One Clubs that allows us to make further investment in improving performances on the pitch and giving the fans (and the City in general) the success they seek and deserve."