Coventry's Sixfields groundshare given Football League approval

Coventry City's plan to groundshare with Northampton Town for the next three years has been "reluctantly approved" by the Football League board.

But League chairman Greg Clarke still hopes City can resolve the long-running row with their Ricoh Arena landlords for the sake of their fans.

"The board did not take this decision lightly," said Clarke.

"It remains a matter of deep regret that the two parties involved cannot come to an agreement."

After the long-running saga of their rent row with Arena Coventry Ltd (ACL), Coventry agreed the groundshare deal at Sixfields in the wake of last month's takeover of the club by the Otium Entertainment Group.

Of course Coventry should be playing in Coventry but the reason why they cannot for this temporary period is not down to us

David Cardoza Northampton Town chairman

A statement released by the League on Monday afternoon stated that their board of directors had "reluctantly approved an application by Otium Entertainment Group - the administrator's preferred bidder for Coventry City FC Limited - for Coventry City to play its home matches at Northampton Town's Sixfields Stadium for an initial period of three seasons."

"Of course Coventry should be playing in Coventry, but the reason why they cannot for this temporary period is not down to us," said Northampton chairman David Cardoza.

"There wasn't any plan for us to try and tempt another club away from their local community for our financial gain. We are simply helping a fellow football club, at their request.

"Had we not reached agreement, and had Coventry been forced to look somewhere else, it may have been at a stadium even further away than Sixfields and with a club who were less aware of the sensitivity and emotion felt by Coventry fans.

"All we can do is make the period when they are playing their home games at Sixfields as bearable as possible for Coventry and their supporters."

Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena

Ricoh Arena
  • The Ricoh Arena has been the Sky Blues' base since 2005 when they left Highfield Road, their home for the previous 106 years.
  • Arena Coventry Ltd manage the Ricoh Arena on behalf of the stadium's joint-owners.
  • Coventry City Council owns a share of the 32,000-capacity ground, along with the Alan Edward Higgs Charity.
  • Last season, Coventry attracted an average attendance of 10,948. Sixfields has a capacity of 7,653.

When home fixtures clash, Northampton's games will take priority.

"If both teams are at home on the same weekend, Coventry will play on the Sunday and, if there is a midweek clash, Coventry will play on the Wednesday," said Cardoza.

"No Northampton Town games will be moved as part of this arrangement, subject to any television requirements."

This occurs for 15 of Northampton's 23 scheduled home matches next season, the first clash coming on the opening day, 10 August, when the Cobblers face Newport, with Coventry now forced to host their 'home' game against Bristol City a day later.

About 100 Coventry fans protested against the club moving out of the city last week and Clarke said the Football League believed clubs should play in the towns or cities from which they take their names.

"Nonetheless, from time to time, the board is asked to consider temporary relocations as a means for securing a club's ongoing participation in our competition.

"With no prospect of an agreement being reached between Otium and ACL, the board was placed in an unenviable position - with the very real possibility of Coventry City being unable to fulfil its fixtures for next season," he added.

"This would inevitably call into question the club's continued membership of the Football League."

Coventry have been in administration since March, and despite being bought last week by Otium, who have close connections with the club's former owners Sisu, they will remain so until they arrange a Company Voluntary Agreement to pay creditors.

Meanwhile, Otium are required to provide a performance bond of £1m for the League as an assurance of the club's commitment to return to the Coventry area.