It’s probably extremely late to put up a post on this but it’s been something that I’ve wanted to put off until as much information was known as possible. If you weren’t already aware, Coventry City look like they will be playing their home games next season not at the Ricoh Arena or in Coventry or even Warwickshire they will now be played at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium. Despite all manner of public statements from both sides of the dispute as far as I’m concerned both are just about equally culpable in creating this farce of a situation. What has seemed very often to be something far more than a business dispute and has morphed into a political and personal one now threatens the existence of Coventry’s only football club (sorry Sphinx and other Coventry based teams).
Whether you intend to watch Coventry at Sixfields or not or whether you’re part of the ‘not one penny more’ campaign or not it seems like this move has serious implications on the future existence of the club. The drop in attendances is the first and biggest issue affecting our clubs future now that the ground relocation has been confirmed. Figures vary depending on who you’re getting them from but it seems likely that the average attendance will be below 6,000 and could even be lower than 3,000 or 2,000. Whatever your side on the dispute it’s clear that the fanbase has been divided severely over this past season. Whereas before the divide in supporters has been between regular attendees and stay-away fans it’s become far more nuanced, from the SISU-outers there’ll be those who’ll choose to stop supporting the club and those who’ll continue to follow, for those who just want to watch football it’ll be divided between those who continue and those who are put off by the distance, for those who blame ACL there’ll still be those who’ll not want the travel. Furthermore the move also decreases the ability for crowds to spontenously increase based on the performances of the team, those stay-away fans of old have another reason not to support, those people in Coventry and the surrounding area who want to start watching football will be able to pick another team. The length of the stay in Northampton will be correlated to the decrease in attendances upon return (which will happen should the club still be around).
The frustration for me is the sheer bloody-mindedness of both sides to negotiate a resolution to this mess. Both sides have a lack of understanding of what negotiation actually means, they both want only their terms and cannot seem to accept anything else. We’ve been told that over the past year that first there was an agreement for the club to buy half the stadium then we heard nothing, then we’ve learned that both agreed to a lower rent deal at the Ricoh at some point in January and nothing happened. On each of these ocassions we’ve later found out that there’s been some higher authority above vetoing these deals, we’re not sure who exactly these people are or why they’re so opposed to finding a resolution. It’s now become what seems to be a personal dispute and a childish one at that.
The move to Northampton to me seems like it was unecessary but with both parties taking the position they have it seems impossible that a resolution can be found. The administration process has been a particularly nasty and confusing situation that has negatively affected the football club. We started March 2013 looking to reach the play-offs under our new manager Steven Pressley. We ended March in administration with a team no longer playing for anything. We started March under the control of SISU and seeking a fairer rent deal at the Ricoh. We’re now in July and we’re still under SISU and we’re now going to be playing in Northampton. Any optimism that can be had for the start of a new season has gone. We’re not looking like we’re going to be signing anyone until well into August and I think many fans are now anticipating another relegation.
Most clubs who go into adminstration are often in a better state than when they went into it. That being said most clubs who go into administration get new owners. The whole process of administration has put the club in a perilous condition in both the short and long term. You question how the old owners were allowed to buy their old company and the answer is that they had the best offer. For all of the talk of the Preston Haskell take-over or the Chinese investors they all offered worse terms than 26p in every £1. When ACL applied for administration for CCFC they talked about it being in the best interests of the club, at the time it seemed to refer to the timing preventing a points deduction for the coming season, now it’s quite clear that ACL had only their interests or those of Preston Haskell in mind when they made their move.
Amidst all of these complex business shenanigans has been the fans. It would be great to say that it has been through this hardship that everyone has stuck together yet the whole affair has been extremely divisive and bitter and petty in between fans of the same club. Not only has the administration negatively affected the club in a sporting sense it has decreased and divided the fan base. Without a single common enemy and so many stand-points to approach the situation from it has been difficult to form a united front. Despite the trust experiencing an upswell in membership it has been poorly organised and taken a strong anti-SISU stance which has diminished its ability to appeal to all fans.
For a minimum of the next three seasons we shall watch our team play in Northampton. So far we’ve seen little signs that either a compromise can be reached for the club to return to the Ricoh or real plans for a new stadium back in (or around) Coventry. It seems that as dark as this moment appears for Coventry fans that the lowest ebb is still far from sight. Despite the optimism I have for the team itself it’s hard to imagine anything better than mid-table should our best players remain and we can get in some reinforcements.