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Crisis

Coventry City are in the midst of their bleakest winter, facing the possibility of insolvency, a winding-up order on Boxing Day and playing home matches 45 miles from their current ground.

The crisis engulfing the Sky Blues and threatening their very existence has been brewing for some time. It involves the club's hedge fund owners, Sisu, and Arena Coventry Limited, who run the Ricoh Arena. The supporting cast in this sorry saga includes Coventry city council and the Higgs Trust, the joint 50% stakeholders in the stadium that City occupied in 2005 after 106 years at Highfield Road. It has proved an ill-fated switch.

Sisu, which took control of the club in 2008, was given a 21-day deadline to pay £1.1m in arrears after ACL issued a statutory demand on 5 December. The Mayfair-based owners, however, are locked in a stand-off with ACL over the annual rent at the Ricoh, which stands at £1.28m.

The club, which claims the figure dwarfs the average League One rent of £170,000 and even the Championship average of £290,000, has been attempting to negotiate a smaller annual sum.

Yet despite a new offer from the stadium owners, a resolution remains some way off. ACL recently wrote to the Coventry chief executive, Tim Fisher, who was appointed one year ago by Sisu, with a rent reduction proposal "designed to provide a secure, stable future" for the club. A reduction of 67% was put forward that would decrease the rent to £400,000 per annum, fixed for three years with any future increases dependent on promotion and improved match attendances.

ACL has also given the club the opportunity to pay back the rent arrears over a period as long as 10 years while offering the potential for the club to take what ACL makes from the match-day refreshment sales.

Sisu, which had previously been negotiating a deal to purchase the Higgs Trust's 50% stake in the ground, does not deem the offer sufficient. The club claim they are now engaging in "the sensible process of making contact with other football clubs" regarding potential venues for matches to be staged elsewhere, including a reported move to Nene Park in Northamptonshire.

Coventry claim that the club's objective in requesting a reduction in the stadium rent is to "bring about a state of commercial normality", however, they are embroiled in a dangerous game of brinkmanship that could have disastrous consequences.

Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen, clerk to the trustees of the Higgs Charity, said: "The Alan Edward Higgs Charity is, as a shareholder in Arena Coventry Ltd, wholly supportive of the action taken by ACL. After 10 months attempting to find a resolution, it is clear that Sisu are not prepared to work to that end and the company must protect itself. This support does not mean that the charity takes pleasure in the plight of Coventry City Football Club."

John Mutton, the Coventry city council leader, said: "ACL has done this in the best interests of its shareholders – including the council – employees and the many other tenants, customers and stakeholders with an interest in the Ricoh Arena.

"The council fully supports ACL's action; CCFC has a legal obligation to pay its rent and ACL's financial position should not be undermined by CCFC's owners failing to do the right thing by the club, ACL and the city."

Sisu was unavailable for comment when contacted by the Guardian.

A potential new location for matches could be Nene Park, the former home of Rushden & Diamonds, and Kettering Town. If such a move materialises supporters who live in Coventry would have to travel 45 miles to home matches.

Attendances at the Ricoh Arena have dwindled this season as the Sky Blues look to consolidate their mid-table position in League One. A decrease was expected after relegation yet the dip has been significant. Last season Coventry's average attendance was 15,118, compared with 10,569 in this campaign. That number could reduce further if the club opts to move again – Nene Park's capacity is 6,441.

Sisu has bankrolled Coventry for the past five years but has been the subject of vociferous chanting from sections of the supporters. Mark Robins, appointed as manager in September after the departure of Andy Thorn, has overseen a six-match unbeaten run, yet this has served only to mask the serious problems under the surface. Relegation to the third tier for the first time in 48 years was regarded as a major setback at the time, however, endless uncertainty means Coventry's decline may not have reached its nadir.

Fans who enjoyed Premier League football until 2001 have been left "in limbo" at the club's demise. A move to the Ricoh Arena that was hailed as a new dawn seven years ago has turned into a desperate and desolate nightmare. Their plight was recently epitomised by a statement from the Sky Blue Trust. It simply said: "What is to become of our club?"

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Coventry won't get kicked out, the owners won't want the Ricoh sitting empty and I can't think of anybody else who will take over as tenants.

The Ricoh does make a few quid from bands doing stadium gigs, but Coldplay ain't gonna play there every other Saturday are they?

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May be time is a great healer as I used to loathe this club and its fans but now they are a total irrelevance I actually feel sorry for there supporters.

The day they got relegated after playing us at VP will however live long in the memory as a very happy one.

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May be time is a great healer as I used to loathe this club and its fans but now they are a total irrelevance I actually feel sorry for there supporters.

The day they got relegated after playing us at VP will however live long in the memory as a very happy one.

such a brilliant day. I still loathe the club.
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May be time is a great healer as I used to loathe this club and its fans but now they are a total irrelevance I actually feel sorry for there supporters.

The day they got relegated after playing us at VP will however live long in the memory as a very happy one.

I couldn't agree more

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I'm in a weird minority that actually have a soft spot for Coventry.

I know, I know, I shouldn't have.

But my best mate is an avid Cov fan so I've been to quite a few games. In fact I went to their Johnstone's Paint Trophy game last week (one for the purists, let me tell you!)

I don't think they'll get kicked out of the Ricoh. It's just a stand off. But their rent is about 1.2million per month. Which is ridiculous as they have no hope of paying that. BUt as Rev says, no-one else will use the Ricoh either so they're not going to make money.

But I think the Ricoj owners have a lot of bargaining power. Becasue Cov aren't paying their rent anyway, so they're not really losing anything by kicking them out. So they can at least appear as if they'll carry that threat through.

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You're a Coventry fan! You dirty bastard!

Sorry, it is an impulse reaction.

I normally have sympathy for fans of teams driven to the brink by owners but not this time. I spent too many years running the gauntlet at Highfield Road, having stuff thrown at me, seeing people at a game with their kids attacked, their fans in the Holte End r and such like to ever ever have sympathy for them.

I know they must have some decent fans, I've just never encountered any, all I encountered was violence and hate from them on a scale I've never experienced elsewhere although would probably find at the Sty if I'd been in recent years.

So all in all, my considered opinion is **** em I hope they fold.

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Oh, there are plenty of 'decent' Cov fans, but they are a club who have a higher than average moron level. I am on the sympathetic camp, lots of Cov fans in my family and friends. I hope for us to draw them in every cup, when draws come around

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Oh, there are plenty of 'decent' Cov fans, but they are a club who have a higher than average moron level. I am on the sympathetic camp, lots of Cov fans in my family and friends. I hope for us to draw them in every cup, when draws come around

I'm pretty much in the same boat, I live in Nuneaton and my house is probably less than five miles from the Ricoh Arena (which is only just in Coventry if we are being honest about things) so I have grown up surrounded by Coventry fans. Most of them are alright individually, but for some reason they really really hate the Villa when they get in a group. I miss the Cov games though, they were always great fun when we played each other regularly, if only because the Villa always won, and yeah, I want us to draw Coventry in the cup more than anything and have done for about ten years.

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You're a Coventry fan! You dirty bastard!

Sorry, it is an impulse reaction.

I normally have sympathy for fans of teams driven to the brink by owners but not this time. I spent too many years running the gauntlet at Highfield Road, having stuff thrown at me, seeing people at a game with their kids attacked, their fans in the Holte End r and such like to ever ever have sympathy for them.

I know they must have some decent fans, I've just never encountered any, all I encountered was violence and hate from them on a scale I've never experienced elsewhere although would probably find at the Sty if I'd been in recent years.

So all in all, my considered opinion is **** em I hope they fold.

post of the year for me
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