Coventry City – A Long and Torturous Decline

Twenty years ago Coventry were a Premier League side. Gordon Strachan was the manager, they had David Burrows in defence, Gary McAllister in midfield and up front the deadly duo of Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby. Ten years ago Coventry were in the Championship, their long run in the top flight finally at an end and with the costs of a new stadium, the Ricoh Arena, hanging around their neck. At the end of 2007, the club were bought by the hedge fund Sisu Capital.

Now it is fair to say the club are in a state of absolute distress. Sitting at the bottom of League One. Tony Mowbray resigned as manager on 29 September, leaving behind a group of players he called “babies in a man’s league”. The Ricoh Arena holds over thirty thousand, these days it is rare that the club will see ten thousand attend a game, such is the sorry state of the club. Another week brought another defeat for City, this time out losing 1-3 to Swindon Town at home. The defeat leaves Coventry a massive eleven points from safety, for a team who have only managed five wins all season – it looks very likely the club will be relegated to League Two.

Most of the anger is directed at Sisu, which still owns the club through a complicated series of companies. Sisu is blamed for a series of faults, from a rent strike at the stadium to the still controversial decision to temporarily move the club to Northampton, to a series of draining legal actions against Coventry city council and, most recently, an announcement that the club’s training ground – the club’s only substantial asset – had been included in a regional plan as a potential site for 75 new houses.

The most pressing concerns for Coventry, beyond their league position, what happens when the club’s deal at the Ricoh Arena runs out at the end of next season and, more immediately, the continued existence of the club’s Category 2 academy, the club’s “lifeline”. Both of these issues are complicated by the poisonous relations between Sisu and the council. It is the latter which owns the freehold on the Ricoh Arena, while another company, Arena Coventry Limited, holds the lease. In 2013 ACL was half owned by the council and half by a local charity, the Alan Higgs children’s charity. It is now owned entirely by Wasps Rugby Club.

It is sad to see a club the size of Coventry City handled this way, the fans are surely sick of how things are going for their beloved club. If I was a rich man and looking for a football club to buy, I would seriously consider Coventry City. They have the potential to be great again, unfortunately for the fans, the club has been ran so poorly that it’s hard to see any positives. Coventry do have a trip to Wembley to look forward to, being involved in the Checkatrade Trophy final on April 2nd. You do have to wonder though, how far adrift will the Sky Blues be come April?

It looks like Russell Slade’s time at the club is surely over, the fans aren’t happy with his management and it looks as though he has lost the dressing room. The problem is, if Slade does go – who would want to take the City job at the moment? You would think the list would be very, very short.

The most worrying thing for Coventry City fans is the ownership of the club, if they continue to go on like this, you would not bet against them playing non-league football in a few seasons time. I feel for the fans of Coventry, they deserve a lot better. It is a long shot but maybe fans can come together and try and buy the club a long with a wealthy investor, one who cares. If something isn’t done soon Coventry’s nightmare will continue.