Ricoh Arena rent demands a 'declaration of war'

By Matthew Bates Thursday 06 December 2012 Updated: 11/12 10:42

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Coun Kevin Foster. (S)

OWNERS of the Ricoh Arena had no choice but to call in over £1 million-worth of unpaid rent owed by Coventry City Football Club, a councillor has claimed.

Coun Kevin Foster, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) was forced into the position after receiving no payments from the Sky Blues since March.

It comes a day after ACL - half-owned by the city council - issued the football club with a statutory demand to pay the money owed within 21 days or face a winding-up order.

The club responded by threatening to find another home and insisting its rent needed to be lowered.

Coun Foster described the statements as "more like a declaration of war than a position statement".

"There was some real intemperate language with threats laced throughout," he told the Observer.

"ACL have no choice but to issue a statutory demand against the club - effectively Sisu - because they are choosing not to pay one bill rather than a range of bills.

"There is no defence to paying nothing at all. Why don't they pay what they feel to be a fair deal?

"If it's £290,000, £300,000 like other clubs - pay that rather nothing at all.

"Sisu has deliberately decided to put ACL in financial trouble."

He also pointed to deals signed in 2003 and 2007 - when hedge-fund Sisu bought the club - as pivotal moments leading to this moment.

Part of the original deal saw the club give up income streams in return for ACL shares, which were then sold on to avoid further financial trouble.

"The deal made was unsustainable," Coun Foster added.

"Yes, the club needed a more modern facility but we weren't even selling out Highfield Road on match days.

"We took a lot of flak for it at the time but we were shouted down."

Coun Foster said he hoped a solution would be found and said Sisu should hold 'open and serious' talks in a bid to find new investors.

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