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It’s summer in the late 1990’s and I’m at an open day at Coventry City’s then stadium, Highfield Road.

The club are living the dream as the Premiership takes off and football is ridding its image of sport of hooligan’s to the new lifestyle choice of a more upwardly mobile clientele.

Coventry City's former home Highfield Road in the early 1990's

Coventry City’s former home Highfield Road in the early 1990’s

To the backdrop of a beautiful late July day we take a look at the pristine pitch before wandering down to the concourse where we are greeted by none other than the Sky Blues’ chairman Bryan Richardson.

On a mission to shake as many hands as possible, he asks us what we think of the close season changes before bumbling on about a bright new future. One of my mates, not really a Coventry fan, looks perplexed by this stranger in our midst and asks, “I’m sorry, but who are you?” Somewhat a egotist, Richardson looks aghast before recovering to explain, “All this is mine”.

It is then my turn to stop the City supremo in his tracks by correcting him, “Actually, all this is theirs.” I point to the Sky Blue hordes present. Richardson nods and ambles off to continue his charm offensive with those less likely to prove awkward.

That was my first encounter with the new breed of football club owner. After a few decent seasons, Coventry not only got relegated but found Richardson had signed up to one of the most disastrous football stadium rental deals in history. Having sold Highfield Road for housing development, our new home would be the plush Ricoh Arena. But the rent would be astronomical for a second tier club and our income from catering rights would be a great fat zilch.

Cometh the wilderness years cometh the messiah, new owners, SISU, mysterious off shore investors extraordinaire. Insisting even the smallest holder of shares parted with them, there began another period of disastrous ownership. For SISU were not messiahs, more worryingly they were not even Brian. So we ended up in League One and homeless. We looked to the football authorities for help and they meekly looked away.

We were not alone. Cardiff and Hull found rich owners brought top flight membership at a price. A change of name, club colours, tradition meant nothing to the new breed of money men. So a new fight was emerging, one that saw club’s that had fought for survival now had to fight for their very soul.

But the pact is a devilish one. Sky Sports will make emotive montages of how it is still all about love of your team. A soft focus exercise that says nothing is above the experience of being there,well apart from an expensive season ticket for your own sofa obviously. The football fans has climbed out of the age where we kicked the crap out of each other to one where we take same sort of crap from our club’s owners as we do the people we work for. Yet, this is supposed to be escapism.

The thing is, a number of fans are turning their back on the upper echelons to go back to their roots, and now following local lower level football. Its affordable and free of the endless politics that now blights the modern game. For where there is money, there will be greed, jealousy and backstabbing. A kind of organised grime that blights the image the TV men would to present you with. But then you think of some of the people that own these broadcasting companies and it’s hardly surprising.

Football needs to decide, is it still the game of the people or the plaything of the megalomaniac. Its a question, that personally brings me some rather unpalatable answers.

Post written by Rob Summerfield
Blog: rob-summerfield.jimdo.com, Twitter: @RobSummerfield1

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

Image Credits
Highfield Road in the early 1990’s © Aerofilms

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3 Responses to “Owners with a lonely heart”

  1. john unitt February 3rd 2014 at 6:59 AM #

    Interesting stuff – well said.

    It was of course Richardson (God I wish he had stuck to cricket) who said ‘We’ll take a punt’ and he did and he lost, over £20 million I believe, a massive and appallingly suicidal attempt to stay up. The brilliant, but now so ironically titled book, Greg Gekoski’s ‘Staying up’ should have been an insight into Richardson’s egotistic mentality, though of course since then he has never to my knowledge uttered a single word about anything – let alone an apology!

    As a supporter for nearly 54 years now, and in my 60’s living in South Yorkshire I get to as many away matches as possible (not counting the 23 AWAY games at a load of old Cobblers!) and have seen Stephen Pressley’s excellent side, certainly one of the best 3 footballing sides we have had since JH took us up in 1967. Problem is how long will we keep him, hes destined for the very top IMHO.

    What a diabolical shambles it all is and which ever you apportion blame to, for me whilst its split unequally between SISU and the Council, at the end of the day the Football League are complete s**te to be honest and they are responsible for the rules by which the clubs join or remain in the League.

    I believe in peaceful protests but cant help wonder just what would have happened if the authorities had found Leeds United or Millwall in this situation? I somehow think that they would have been a hell of a lot less tolerant than our fans.

    One day these barstewards who collectively have basically ‘fiscally raped’ this once great football club, will be out of the picture. Problem is so will a great many young/potential fans too! 3 to 5 years – no way, and WE MUST FIND A WAY TO FORCE THIS ISSUE LONG BEFORE THEN, OTHERWISE THE CLUB IS DEAD. New stadium, dont make me laugh – no intention and no such thing, simply a sop to get the Football League to think they are good little owners!

  2. Steven Cullen February 3rd 2014 at 1:03 PM #

    Hello all, we can go on about BR as much as we want but mistakes have been made since then a lot worse than he ever made. He wasn’t a good man and all of the above but he didn’t take us 35 miles away from Coventry.

    SISU use BR as a scapegoat to shield the blame and SISU have been in charge for over 6 years now. They chose to pay the high rent and all that. You suddenly can’t stop paying rent, negotiate a better deal.

    I still can’t believe our team plays in Northampton and at least very few of us follow. 1,500 home fans is embarrassing obviously but for SISU not us. Out of the 1,500 my guess is half are City fans and half probably locals seeing a decent game of football.

    Yes blame on all sides in the mess but ultimately SISU fail in every manner, they are the only ones who can make us play in Coventry. A new stadium 99% know is garbage and to be honest no one really talks about it which again makes SISU silly. CCC offer free rent, reduced rent, big differences but to no avail meaning its personal and the club itself is stuck in the middle with us fans. CCC hate SISU and they hate CCC. I don’t get how they pay £1.3 million a year for 4 years then just stop paying and now offered free to £150k rent and say no. This isn’t right and obviously a lot more is going on. My rent is £595 a month and if my landlord reduces it 90% to around £100 I’m laughing, so very odd.

    There is no end to this sorry mess and the CCC are doing all they can but they cant make SISU play in Cov. SISU need to man up and they don’t like each other but do what’s best for the fans and even from a business level. They are not making money in Northampton and losing millions so they are hurting themselves which again I don’t get. If I owned Cheltenham and I hated Cheltenham fans and a council owned stadium but playing in say Gloucester cost me £2-3 million a year and all this bad publicity etc then I would stay in Cheltenham purely for fiscal reasons. I wouldn’t cost myself this.

    One day this saga will end one way or another. Either the termination of CCFC or the world see senses and it all works out in the long term. Lets pray for justice.

  3. steve coyne February 3rd 2014 at 8:16 PM #

    It’s very sad to see what has become of the Sky Blues. Unless something is sorted over the next year the Club will slowly die – another 4 years in Northampton will kill them. The current corrosive rift among supporters is here to stay. Just a few points ….

    BR has replied to his critics – a big piece in the Telegraph when he reminded us he negotiated the £60 million land deal with Tesco.

    Just who are SISU’s backers – can they really know where all their money is going? I thought hedge funds were there to make money.

    Unlike most fans I think Fisher is serious about a new stadium. The planning and politics however will be horrendous. Finally the most depressing point – it’s only a matter of time before Pressley is snapped up by a bigger club – and there are now many more of these. PUSB