Coventry City: Sisu to ask European Commission to examine Ricoh sale to Wasps

Premiership rugby side Wasps became Coventry City's landlords following their move to the Ricoh Arena in 2014
Premiership rugby side Wasps became Coventry City's landlords following their move to the Ricoh Arena in 2014

Coventry City's owners Sisu have taken their legal complaint over the sale of the Ricoh Arena to Premiership rugby club Wasps to the European Commission, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire reports.

Last month, the Supreme Court threw out Sisu's appeal over a judicial review into the sale by Coventry City Council.

Sisu claim the Ricoh was undervalued by £28m, and is asking the Commission to see if the deal breaks state-aid rules.

English Football League clubs will discuss the issue on 29 May.

Coventry, whose place in the league could be at risk if they are unable to find a suitable stadium to play in next season, said on social media that the club had "no comment to make at this time".

"Talks continue with Wasps Holdings Limited regarding extending our tenancy at the Ricoh Arena," the club added.

Their lease at the Ricoh has run out and despite reports of "initial discussions" with Wasps over extending their stay, the Premiership club have in the past insisted that all legal actions must be dropped before formal talks can begin.

The European Union has rules on how much government money can be given to commercial enterprises to ensure one does not get an unfair advantage over another. And it is thought Sisu will argue that the council's undervaluing of the stadium constituted state aid.

"The normal procedure would be you apply to the commission before you give the aid, so this case is different," University of London professor Christine Oughton told BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire.

"Even if a complaint is made there are exemptions that can be given by the European Union to allow funds to be used to build and renovate stadia.

"For example, three sports stadiums in Belfast were given £110m and that was approved under one of the exemptions of the policy which is to allow regeneration of an area or social cohesion.

"In France in the run-up to Euro 2016 state aid was given to allow nine stadia to be built and renovated because the project was not viable without public support.

"Even if the complaint goes forward, there are grounds on which an exemption might be allowed by the European Commission."

Wasps statement

Wasps chief executive Nick Eastwood:

"As everyone knows, we have consistently maintained over a long period of time that we were happy to sit down with Coventry City to reach agreement over their future at the Ricoh Arena, once the club's owners had agreed to cease all legal action or proceedings surrounding our acquisition and ownership of the Ricoh Arena.

"As reported by both parties recently, we entered such discussions in good faith, based on that principle.

"However, we have now been made aware of this complaint to the EU Commission and understand that it was filed in February, well before the discussions set out above were commenced.

"We further understand that the basis of the complaint to the EU is very similar in all matters of substance to the recent court actions, questions those court decisions and seeks remedial action.

"Regrettably, this means that the condition set out above for us to enter or continue discussions with CCFC has not been met. The ball is therefore back in the court of CCFC's owners.

"We believe it is in everyone's interest that Coventry City play their home games at the Ricoh Arena, and we would urge the owners of Coventry City to take steps to make that happen."

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