Coventry City Football Club is demanding answers from Coventry City Council.
Again last week, Council Leader George Duggins rejected two offers from CCFC Chief Executive Dave Boddy to meet regarding the future of the Football Club.
In email Mr Duggins, a Councillor since 1993 and the Council Leader since 2016, was also questioned on four contradictory statements. The four statements below were put to him:
Coventry City Council minutes, 7th October 2014:
“In particular, Members discussed and debated:
“The importance of having the interest of people of Coventry at the heart of any decision about the future ownership of ACL.
“The commitment that any deal relating to the Ricoh Arena would not be approved unless the following three tests were satisfied:
(1) A good deal for the City
(2) The security and future of Coventry City Football Club
(3) The security and future of Coventry Rugby Club
7th October 2014 – Ann Lucas, then Coventry City Council leader:
"This deal would not have happened if it threatened the future of the Sky Blues or Coventry Rugby Club.”
December 2018 - Council leader George Duggins and Conservative opposition leader Gary Ridley
Claim the commitment to “the security and future of Coventry City Football Club” under the stadium’s sale was limited to just four years.
13th February 2018 - Nick Eastwood, Wasps Chief Executive
“We effectively made a commitment to the Council when we purchased the Ricoh that Sky Blues would be at the Ricoh for as long as they wish."
Councillor Duggins, whose Longford ward includes the Ricoh Arena, said in response to our e-mail: “I don't accept the commitment was timeless.” Mr Duggins needs to prove it – the evidence does not back his claim.
On Friday, the Coventry Observer newspaper’s Freedom of Information request revealed the following in a private Council Report on the sale of the stadium to Wasps:
“2.5.11 The City Council remains committed to try to ensure that CCFC is able to continue to play its home matches at the Ricoh Arena. It will include a requirement in agreements underpinning the sale that this option must exist for CCFC subject to it reaching a commercial agreement with ACL. The terms of this transaction do not impact in any way on the terms of the August 2014 licence agreement with CCFC which will be fully honoured.”
This is further, clear evidence that the unconditional Council promise was not limited to four years as Councillor Duggins claims.
George Duggins is trying to re-write history. If when the deal was announced in 2014, the Council had said ‘four years’ for their promise to the City’s football club and fans – would the deal have been accepted by the people of Coventry, or would they have challenged it? The Council made the statement, and the unconditional promise, rightly to try to re-assure people as Wasps moved into the City.
Councillor Duggins, who was deputy Council Leader when talks over joint ownership of the stadium between the Council and SISU collapsed in 2012 and attended the talks with then Leader John Mutton, needs to explain why the Council is now misleading the public.
He also needs to explain why the Council is refusing to release other important documents relating to this unconditional promise from 2014.
We would also welcome an explanation why the Council is desperately seeking a meeting with the management of Aldi over the closure of a supermarket in Bell Green, also within Councillor Duggins’ ward, but refuses to meet with us over the future of the club?
The Council has met already with the Sky Blue Trust – but not the Football Club. A former Labour colleague of George Duggins is John Fletcher, who was Labour Council leader from 1996 to 1999 and was until 2016 on the board of the Sky Blue Trust. Is Mr Fletcher willing to use his position and many contacts in the Council to help arrange a meeting between his former colleagues and the Football Club to help it remain at the Ricoh Arena?
For clarity also – does he believe that the Council’s unconditional promise relating to Coventry Rugby Club is time limited?
When elected in 2016, Councillor Duggins said: “I want to connect quite firmly with the people of Coventry and what they want.”
When Coventry was awarded City of Sport for 2019, the Council Leader said: “A city that helps people to build sport and movement in to everyday life will be a better place to live and that’s what I want for my city.”
The people of Coventry want the Football Club to play at the Ricoh Arena. This issue is not about Court Cases. Owners of Football Clubs do change, as do Councillors and Councils.
This is about the future of the Football Club.
The Code of Conduct for Councillors requires Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. This is seriously lacking in the misleading statements given over the unconditional promises made in 2014.
The Council cannot just come out and just say ‘Blame Sisu’ when there are questions for them to answer. There are questions for all sides to answer, including our Owners, and the Council cannot wash their hands of their responsibility to taxpayers and to the public they claim to represent.
George Duggins needs to come out and explain the misleading, contradictory statements made, and prove that the Council’s unconditional promise was limited to just four years – as he now claims.
Talk is cheap Councillor Duggins – please prove that it was only a four year commitment as you repeatedly suggest.
If Councillor Duggins can’t, he must immediately facilitate a new deal for CCFC to stay at its home, the Ricoh Arena.
The original publication of this article stated that Mr John Fletcher was currently on the board of the Sky Blue Trust. We are happy to clarify that Mr Fletcher is not currently on the board, and has left that role,