Sisu Out

For people not familiar with the history of Coventry City FC it could easily be assumed that they are a team that has been confined to the lower leagues for most of its history. However this is definitely not the case. Until the Clubs relegation in 2001 they had spent 34 consecutive seasons in the top flight and were an inaugural member of the Premier League in 1992. Although their only major trophy was in 1987 when they beat Tottenham to win the FA Cup, this is a club that has a fan base and history to rival current top tier sides.

However the 2000/2001 season proved to be a major turning point for the club. They finished 19th meaning relegation to the Championship. After 11 seasons of mediocrity in the championship they were relegated to League 1 in 2012. Coventry now sit at the foot of the League 1 table, eleven points from safety having only won 4 games all season, and it’s fair to say fans have started to become disillusioned with the situation the club finds its self in.

Coventry’s downfall in recent years can mainly be attributed to problems off the field. The club has been blighted by financial problems since their move to the Ricoh Arena in 2005. Originally the plan was for a state-of-the-art, 45,000-seater multipurpose stadium with removable pitch and retractable roof. It was due to be ready for the 2001–02 season and was touted to be one of the most advanced stadiums in Europe. However, the club’s subsequent relegation, financial problems, financier/contractor withdrawals and England’s failure to secure the 2006 World Cup competition led to a radical redesign. Subsequently the 32,000 capacity Ricoh was designed and built. Despite initiating the project and the stadiums original purpose being to house Coventry City FC, the club no longer owns the Stadium with ACL first owning the rights as of 2005 and then and now Wasps as of 2014 with Coventry paying rent to use it.

In recent years many of the clubs problems have been blamed on the Sisu ownership. On 14th December 2007, Ray Ranson and the SISU group successfully completed the takeover of the football club with half an hour to spare before going into administration. They required 90% of shares, which was acquired in January to take full control.

The owner of the Sisu out Facebook page spoke of the major changes at the club since their takeover. “Since they took over attendance has gone down as fans are just getting fed up”. The owner of the page who wanted to stay anonymous also went on to describe the “major” mismanagement of the clubs finances.

“There hasn’t been adequate investment in the squad and our league position speaks for itself”.

“Since Sisu took over there have been eight managers and countless Directors of the club. Needless to say the club from top to bottom is in a shambolic state”.

In September a petition launched by the Coventry telegraph calling for Sisu owners to sell the club gained over 16,000 signatures in one week.

Another person who followed the club in its glory days is Jonny Weeks, photo editor of the Guardian Australia.

“I grew up in Coventry in the 80s and 90s and first started to attend footy matches with my dad at Highfield Road in the early 90s. Back then we had some fantastic players like Peter Ndlovu, Dion Dublin, Darren Huckerby, Noel Whelan, Roland Nilsson, Gary McAllister, Mo Konjic, Youssef Chippo, Mustafa Hadji and Robbie Keane – it was a time when it was a pleasure to be a Cov fan, even if we were routinely near the foot of the table.  Hell, the annual relegation scrap was half the thrill.”

Jonny went onto to outline why Coventry had slipped to the bottom of League 1 and the role Sisu played in this. “Coventry’s slide down the divisions has myriad causes but it’s fair to say the tenure of SISU has been catastrophic and they’re responsible for much of the trouble the club now finds itself in, sure, they saved the club from administration and tried initially to invest in getting promotion back to the top flight … But slowly things unraveled and since then they’ve been guilty of consistent and at times unbearable mismanagement. The most alarming examples include the way they intentionally withheld rent from ACL, the owners of the Ricoh Arena, forcing the local council to lend them millions, and their decision to move the club away to Northampton’s ground, Sixfields, forcing us to play our ‘home’ games 34 miles away from the city of Coventry for a season”.

“SISU/Otium have failed to invest in the team, they’ve failed to truly support any of the managers we’ve churned through in recent seasons, they’ve failed to come up with a decent long term strategy on where to play our home games, and most tellingly they’ve failed to listen to fans’ protests. All of this has deepened existing wounds and driven the club down lower than it’s been for half a century. We’re now on the cusp of falling into the fourth tier”.

It is clear that the situation at Coventry is pretty dire. However there has been some light in a rather dark season for fans. The Checkatrade trophy run has seen Coventry reach the final where they will play at Wembley against either Oxford United or Luton Town. Lifelong Coventry City fan Terry Owen is skeptical of the effects of this however. “Reaching Wembley will give fans something to smile about among all the gloom. We will enjoy the day win or lose but we will be in league 2 next year”.

Danny Own however was even more skeptical, “to be honest reaching the checkatrade trophy is not going to do anything for the morale of fans, yes it will be a day out, a deserved day out for the die hard Coventry fan, but after that day there is nothing to look forward to, who really remembers the winners of the checkatrade trophy?? I can’t even remember who won it last year, Sisu are using it as a marketing tool, replica FA shirts etc. How can you possibly compare this to the FA cup of 1987! “.

Furthermore in regards to the future of Coventry City FC, Danny’s answer mirrored that of the previous one in skeptical tone. “I have to be blunt to this question, and that is 100%, no doubt in my mind that there is no way that under the ownership of Sisu that my beloved club will have any future”.

Being somewhat of an outsider looking in it is hard disagree with Danny’s views. Coventry is a massive club and it is sad to see it dragged through hard times. With the future for the club is very much up in the air widespread fan discontent looks as though it is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

 

Ben Rees

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