Nuneaton Town 1 Coventry City 4 match report: Angry fans protest at Sky Blue move with black balloons

Proposal to play home games 35 miles away at Northampton ground sparks demonstration

Liberty Way

The sun shone, the drinks flowed at the beer festival next door but inside Nuneaton Town's Liberty Way Stadium the mood was less cheery. Five days after learning that their football club would be playing their "home" matches 35 miles away in Northampton for at least three seasons, more than 721 Coventry City fans turned out yesterday to show their opposition.

Black balloons were released from the packed away end as the teams ran out and the chant of "We want Sisu out" was the first of many aimed at the League One club's unpopular hedge-fund owners.

This was a pre-season friendly, but not as we know it. As Jan Mokrzycki, a spokesman for the Sky Blue Trust which organised the black-balloon protest, says: "This is the time of year we should be getting excited, talking about how we're going to do this season but we're not – we're talking about finance, politics and where we're going to be playing."

In their days in the old First Division, Coventry were famed for their late-season survival fights; the 2013-14 campaign has not even started and yet arguably the biggest battle in the club's history is in a critical phase.

Last Monday the Football League accepted Sisu's proposal to escape a long-running rent dispute with the owners of the Ricoh Arena, Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), and ground share with League Two Northampton Town with a view to building a new ground in Coventry.

The reaction locally has been a mixture of anger and defiance. There is fear, too, despite the £1m bond Sisu must pay as a pledge to return to Coventry. Fewer than 2,000 fans are expected to follow their side to Northampton.

It is easy to empathise and all too tempting to question the motives of Sisu. How can owners who have left the club in administration and under a transfer embargo talk seriously about building a stadium? "We don't know what their motives are. Is this brinkmanship?" asks the Sky Blue Trust's Ian Devoy, a great-grandson of Willie Stanley, who founded the club in the Singer motor factory in 1883.

"We have a world-class stadium we can continue to use," he says. "There is an offer on the table to play at the ground rent-free." That offer, rejected by the club's owners, came this week from the former vice-chairman of the club, Gary Hoffman, who had been part of a rival bidding consortium overlooked in June as the Sisu-appointed administrator, Paul Appleton, selected Otium Entertainment, another Sisu company.

Earlier yesterday on a roundabout outside the Sixfields Stadium in Northampton a dozen Trust members stood displaying placards reading: "Send us to Coventry", with a faceless mannequin in a sky-blue bodysuit to represent Sisu. The hedge fund may have inherited the stadium problem (a £1.28m annual rent) but all sympathy has gone.

Coventry MP Bob Ainsworth, raised questions in Parliament this week about the presence of two separate companies with club assets, CCFC Ltd and Coventry City FC Holdings (Ltd), and raised the spectre of fraud.

Concerns have also been voiced by Supporters Direct. According to their spokesman Kevin Rye, the Football League's decision to allow the ground share underlines "why the government is threatening regulation for football. The Football League board tend to act as if these people's intentions are honourable."

Rye suggests that Coventry's situation is far from the scenario in which Rotherham left Millmoor after a rent dispute and spent four years in Sheffield while building a new stadium. "[The Football League] have seen that seemed to work [but] the owner, Tony Stewart, did a huge amount of work with the supporters, the council, MPs to make the return almost a racing certainty."

With ACL due for talks with the Football League tomorrow, nothing is certain. Steven Pressley's side – with four untried teenage starters – won yesterday, but the football seems incidental. "They're ripping our club to shreds," says Dave Bennett, a scorer in the 1987 Cup final win over Tottenham, Coventry's finest hour. A face in the crowd yesterday, he is hopeful that a solution may be found. "They need to get together and talk before it's too late."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks