Former Arena chief - give SISU the Ricoh

By Matthew Bates 26/04 Updated: 26/04 11:21

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Paul Fletcher has called on the council to hand the Ricoh Arena over to Coventry City's owner's SISU.

COUNCIL bosses are the only people who can save Coventry City Football Club - according to former Ricoh Arena chief executive Paul Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher, who was also managing director of the Sky Blues from 2006 to 2008, said the council needed to realise the club's importance to the city and should simply hand over its share in the stadium to controversial owners SISU.

Council leader John Mutton branded the comments barmy and claimed there would be 'riots on the street'.

The Sky Blues were relegated to League One on Saturday after losing at home to already-down Doncaster Rovers. The cash-strapped club is desperate to get the stadium back from current owners ACL, which is joint owned by the council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity.

Mr Fletcher told the Observer: "The only one who can help is Coventry City Council.

"It must start to realise the importance of a successful club to the city and hand back the Arena to allow the club to survive. If it doesn't, the future will be very gloomy."

Mr Fletcher described relegation as a disaster waiting to happen but claimed SISU's tag as 'bad boys' was a harsh one because the secretive hedge fund has invested around £30million since taking in 2007.

Coun Mutton, who compared the atmosphere at Saturday's game to like being in a morgue, said any handover of the Arena would prove illegal.

"We could never hand it over - it's public money.

"Imagine the reaction when council tax went up by 20 per cent because we had bailed out the football club," he said.

"There would be riots on the street. This is never something Paul would have agreed to as chief executive of stadium owners ACL and was never raised at any point."

Coun Mutton added the council would never sell its stake to SISU and said they were threatening liquidation to because of that.

"It's been a shambles ever since SISU took over," said the life long Sky Blues fan.

"We need to remember why we invested in this. The old gasworks site lay derelict and contaminated for 20 years and this has created jobs in the north of the city where unemployment is high.

"Someone needs to come forward to invest money in the club and prove it would invest in the infrastructure, such as the hotels we desperately need to stop missing out on conferences.

"There have been one or two groups interested but someone has to put their money where their mouth is."

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