It was a case of Déjà vu at the Ricoh Arena this week with the club’s desperate financial plight taking over as the main news item from last week’s story about the team’s vertical drop towards League One. A high-powered press conference, talk of administration, financial injections and a new team on the board with their serious talk and furrowed brows. Yes there are new faces in the boardroom, some of them allegedly with questionable pasts, but they make the same old noises. They blame all the problems on the previous regime, talk about making the club financially viable again and state the obvious that the club must own the stadium in the future. Call me cynical but most City fans could have written the script for the press conference on Wednesday.
An added ingredient this week was that HMRC sent their bailiffs to the Ricoh looking to seize the club’s assets in lieu of unpaid PAYE tax. It can only have been like something from a Monty Python sketch.
HMRC bailiff: ‘So there are no assets?
CCFC representative: ‘No, we own nothing, just eleven football shirts’ (according to Ray Ranson in 2008) ‘We have got a training ground, but we’ve mortgaged that now. If you had come in January we had a talented 17-year old but we sent him to Liverpool’.
Joking apart, this is a serious problem. In normal circumstances HMRC would commence bankruptcy proceedings against a non-payer, so someone needs to pay them pretty quickly. But what a state this football club is in – Derrick Robins and Phil Mead, the men who quietly and frugally built the club up in the 1950s and 60s must be turning in their graves at the thought of the bailiffs turning up.
The faces in the boardroom are mostly new but the owner, SISU, is unchanged and little was said to reassure the long-suffering fans that much will change. SISU have had three years to progress the stadium ownership issue and have achieved little. Before SISU, Paul Fletcher, easily the best Chief Executive in the modern era in my opinion, resigned in frustration at the lack of progress with the owners of the stadium (and too much tinkering from a chairman who thought he knew best). In the three years since SISU saved the club in the last crisis there has been little or no progress on the playing side. On Wednesday the new chairman got off to a bad start when his assertion that a meeting was planned with the council was exposed as a myth by council leader John Mutton.
One way forward may be for all the parties (including the politicians) to get off their high horses, stop posturing and sit down together and thrash out a solution that benefits the football club’s supporters and the city of Coventry. Until that happens our football club will just stagger from this disaster to the next.
Today is the fifth annual Legends Day organised by the Former Players Association and over 50 former players including family members of some of the late greats (George Mason, Ray Straw and Frank Austin) are expected to attend. A full list of all confirmed guests can be found on the Former Players Association website at www.ccfpa.co.uk Ensure you are in your seats at half-time to see the men who made Coventry City famous paraded on the pitch. It promises to be a great day with the celebrations starting in the Arena Exhibition hall at 11.30 where the E-type Jaguars are on display and carrying on throughout the day at the Ricoh and culminating in a party open to all at the G Casino after the game.