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SCG Minutes - December 4th, 2013

6 December 2013

The minutes from the Supporters Consultative Group meeting on December 4th, 2013...

Attendees

Andy Powell (AP)
Darren Davies (DD)
Pat Raybould (PR)
Adam Dent (AD)
Ray Stephens (RS)
Steve Brown (SB)
Kevin Monks (KM)
Jonathan Strange (JS)
Pat Abel (PA)
Kevin Heffernan (KH)
Stacie McDermott (SM)
Tim Fisher (TF)
Nick Connoll (NC)

Apologies

Chris McGrath
Steve Barnett
Peter Ward
Jim Brown

Agenda

• Roll call and apologies
• Minutes last meeting
• CCFC update (Tim Fisher)
o Lucas/Seppala meeting
o Judicial Review
o Rejection of latest council offer
• Report of meeting with Council (Andy Powell)
• Stadium Consultation Group - formation and mandate (Tim Fisher)
• AOB
• Date of Next Meeting

Minutes

Tim responded to an article which appeared on the CoventryCity-Mad website and stated for the record that ‘there will be no suing of fans’ as alluded to in that article.

TF - Great that Pressley got Manager of the Month. The superstore is doing very well.
Loan signings are timely. This is a young squad and they’ve just had a 3-day break as we are at the half way point in the season. 
Club are working off the pitch on a few initiatives – Tim’s time has been on new stadium initiative and he has a meeting this evening to interview the prospective chair-person of the stadium consultation group. That person is a highly regarded professional, lawyer by training and good links to the community.

TF – Stadium technical briefing is done. Requirements have been collected.
Stadium needs a signature DNA of the club to be put on it and that’s for the fans to decide. What does it mean to fans to have their own stadium? Key Points from Tim are – entrance needs to look like a football club. Architect strapline – retro yet contemporary. Tim has spent a lot of time going back and forth to Germany – German design leads the world at the moment. Would the fans  like a mixture of seating and standing with the ability to interchange like in stadiums in Germany. There is a 35% uplift in yield on attendances with standing.
In terms of that group, Stacie will join as head of marketing and one other from the club. Chairperson will then create the group. Potential monthly meetings. Hope to make an announcement in a few weeks.

TF - Currently bidding on a second site and it is an arduous process. Stadium design wants to be run in parallel with site acquisition. Site at the moment will be stadium and academy.  

TF – On to the Judicial Review (JR). Judge found there was a case arguable against the council loan on three counts, principally state aid and improper purpose. Full JR in front of senior judge to happen.

JS – Time? 

TF – March or April (not confirmed).

JS – Implications? 

TF – Each one of the councillors is personally liable. Tim was crystal clear – the purpose of the JR is not to sue the council rather we maintain that the council have acted improperly. 

AP - Would you sue ACL for damages? 

TF - We paid £850k of rent last season. Shortfall on the annualised rent was £636k. The council withheld a rate rebate of £399k and had been overcharging rates since day one of the Ricoh Arena occupancy but we can only currently claim for the last three years. The Valuation Office (Central Govt) has told Coventry City Council to pay back £399k to club. That hasn’t happened yet so we are issuing legal proceedings against the council to recover the monies owed. 

SB – What do you really want out of the JR? 

TF – Great question. The club’s issues date back further than the last two years. Forensic accountants have analysed the period to back beyond 2003 and looked at the deals on Highfield Rd and the Ricoh Arena. We now understand both the land and the sub deals, the value attributable and the actual cash flows. It is important that the people of Coventry know what the council and others have done to the club over the years. The JR gives no financial benefit to SISU other than to prove there was a conspiracy to wrest control of the football club from SISU by the council. Judge Thirlwall agreed on Friday that there was a case to argue on improper purpose.  Public documents from the JR hearing are available which TF encourages everyone to read.

TF – Moving the discussion on to renting the Ricoh Arena. How can we do that? We couldn’t go near them because of what’s pending and what the judge believes is arguable – that is the council acting with improper purpose towards the club. 

SB – Can you understand that people think you are putting up a wall. From a footballing and supporters point of view, coming back to Coventry under whatever circumstances would get people back on your side. People just want the club back.

TF – I fully respect that opinion and respect all the fans. This whole situation is deeply regrettable. However the council have made their position finally clear. First it was “Let’s sell the stadium,” say the council. Ann Lucas meets Joy and says “actually it’s only a rental deal that is available.” We can’t do business with them. Ann made it crystal clear in the meeting it’s a rental deal only on the table. However we are fully aware that they’ve been talking to other parties to sell the Ricoh such as a Chinese group in the last few weeks. 

SB – can’t we put an offer on the table? 

TF – What does the Sky Blue Trust (SBT) statement of 2nd August mean? We beseech the football league not to give the golden share to Otium. Club comes first and always has. We had to save the club on 2nd August. As said before, the FL were prepared to have 71 teams for one year so we had to act and move the club to ensure that we could fulfil our fixtures. 
Indeed by making such irresponsible statements as that of 2nd August then the fans are being totally mislead. I am angry and sorry for Coventry fans. I travel by train where possible to try and speak to and engage with as many fans as I can. The fans in the SBT are lions led by donkeys. The SBT needs leadership.

SB – We cannot control the fans in the SBT – there are extreme factions. But we are making changes eg John Fletcher leaving

TF – I won’t chair stadium consultation. The group will be chaired by someone independent who is a huge Coventry fan and not necessarily a supporter of SISU.
 
KM – This has gone on for way too long.

SM – At present the club has control of its destiny. How many fans wish SISU had done due diligence back then and not bought the club? If we go back to rental deal we might not be in control again. 

RS – If we were renting that stadium – big if – there is no reason why we would have anything to do with ACL. Couldn’t we just turn up and use the stadium. The same as we are at Northampton. Credit to Tim in that he likes to front up and engage with the fans. Chairmen and CEOs usually disappear at half time but Tim stays and talks to people. 

SB – Club is in good shape – footballing side of things. I’m not anti-SISU, but I will not go to Northampton. If you did a deal with the Ricoh I’d be back and so would others.

JS – It’s the uncertainty.

TF – I understand it’s the uncertainty. People want certainty – whether it’s in a new stadium or back at the Ricoh. My frustration is born of a group of people who have overseen the demise of the club over the years.  Saturday was fantastic. That’s what this should be about. I am so sorry we have ended up in a position where we have found ourselves put into administration for £200k.

RS – I met Joy in Coventry. She was honest. Fans are being encouraged to stay away but it can work two ways. We have to show solidarity which means watching the team home or away. 

SB – I go and stand on the hill. It’s not the distance. It’s just not home. 

JS – Such a danger of the amount of fans that are being lost. 

AP – If you’ve drawn a line underneath purchasing the freehold and are committed to a new stadium, why can’t we do a short term deal for the interim?

TF – We can’t work with them. It’s a good point but we simply can’t. 

SB – Five years at Sixfields is too long. You’re losing fans. You say you’re preserving the club but at what cost. 

RS – If they came tomorrow and offered to sell it would you buy the Ricoh?

TF – Joy would certainly be interested, but CCC need to decide what they want to achieve. We do not think that they can do a deal even if they wanted to. The CCC are clear that they never sell freeholds.

JM – What is Mark Labovitch’s role, title and does he get paid?

TF – With regard to Mark Labovitch, from a governance perspective he provides an independent view for the board. He’s paid a nominal Non Executive Directors fee. 

TF – For those (new stadium) sites we are considering then we have conducted economic Impact assessments eg there has to be job enabling. Socio Economic arguments, community engagement are critical and the stadium will support delivery of initiatives across health eg smoking cessation, education and anti-racism. 

TF – When trying to purchase a share in ACL last year, we brought AEG to the table to try and run the event/arena side. AEG are a multi-billion turnover entertainment and stadium management company. AEG would bring a portfolio of entertainment acts which in turn help grow the arena. 

KH – It’s been over 12 months since the reconstitution of the SCG. It time for JS to be promoted to Chairman and a new Vice-Chairman elected. 

JS – The situation has developed so much that it has put a strain on the Terms of Reference (TOR). Peter Ward (PW) has done a superb job and at this moment whilst things are so delicately balanced, we ought to continue with peter as chairman for continuity.

KH – TOR are clear.

TF - I’m thankful to PW for chairing. There needs to be more effective communication. Someone should act as secretary to the group. 

NC – I’ll be taking a bigger role in the group. The SCG needs a presence on the club website. I would like to move this forward and get members contact details on the site, that’s the 15+ SCG members, plus a secretary. One set of uniform minutes should be produced for use and they should also be published on the club site in a timely fashion. 

Tim Fisher Left the Meeting at this point to attend another appointment.

AP – Update on the council meeting. 

SM - All squad players will be at a JSB party, Monday 23rd December at the Excel Leisure Centre

RS – AOB. We as a group should lobby the owners that we go back to the Ricoh on a rental agreement. It can be done and we should try and force the issue. 

PA – I went to a ward forum. Went to councillors and asked them to listen. We should get people to agitate on our behalf. 

KH – We should be putting the question to the club board to explain financial justification for choosing Northampton over Ricoh. 

AP – I will email Tim to explain this (see below note).

SB – We should be more actively lobbying about getting back to the Ricoh. However we are concerned about this lost generation and have actually promoted the idea or organising transport for kids to get to Northampton.  

KM – Extended a Vote of Thanks to Gregor Ricoh for his work at the Academy and going above and beyond the call of duty. Additional Vote of Thanks to Lionel Bird for finding the location of the original Singers FC pitch.

JS – Congratulations to Kevin Monks for receiving an award from the FA for services to grassroots football.

Date of Next Meeting – Wednesday 15th January at 6:30pm. Venue TBC.

Additional Note added post meeting following clarification from Tim Fisher.

Can you add clarity to the ‘Free’ Offer from ACL?

ACL are mixing match day costs and rent.

At Northampton, Rent includes; all stadium related first team match day services including pitch maintenance, utilities, refuse collection and covers the following facilities - the pitch, the stadium, the stadium seating, the changing rooms, hospitality suites and banqueting areas, match day staff facilities, media facilities.

The stadium also provide all catering staff, all grounds men. The licensee (the club) separately provide stewards, crowd doctor, crowd ambulance, player ambulance.

The ACL proposal comprised a license fee of per match plus match day costs, defined as charges to maintain and manage pitch, utilities, waste, hygiene, match day stadium maintenance salaries, statutory service contracts. The total is north of 12K per match. This is, of course, rent/facility fee. 

What is the financial justification of playing at Northampton?

The original rationale and premise for Sixfields was the ensuring an ability to fulfil our fixtures. Without this the club would have catastrophically failed. The rationale for Northampton is not financially driven in the short term. 

Any return to the Ricoh on an interim rental deal would be very difficult. Notwithstanding, the improper purpose, the un-connected creditor put down the club for a mere 200K monies owed - caused a 20 point loss and threatened the club's very existence.

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