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By Matthew Bates Tuesday 15 January 2013 Updated: 15/01 16:47
A MULTI-MILLION pound bail-out has been made by Coventry City Council to the owners of the Ricoh Arena.
Councillors have today (Tuesday) agreed to a £14.4million deal to safeguard the stadium and pay off owners' ACL's existing debts to Yorkshire Bank.
It effectively leaves the council as the stadium's bank, with interest rates set at a lower level than before.
Bosses at Coventry City - which has not paid its £100,000-a-month rent since March - had speculated the bank was set to call in the debt and put ACL into administration, which could have seen club owners' Sisu buy it at a knockdown price.
The bank itself has remained tight-lipped throughout.
Council leader John Mutton claimed the stadium's future had been secured and taxpayers would benefit from the deal signed.
He said: "Not many councils would have done what we’ve done, but I’ve always believed that councils can – and should – be prepared to take bold and radical decisions when they are the right thing to do.
"It’s up to ACL and the club now to find a way forward on the rent issue; we know that ACL is totally committed to doing this, and we hope the club’s owners will be committed to doing so, too."
He added no cash was being put into the club by the council. It already owns 50 per cent of the stadium through ACL, with the Alan Edward Higgs Charity making up the other half.
The charity's Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen backed the deal and said the council should be applauded.
He said the move should provoke Mayfair-based Sisu into paying the rent owed and presenting a realistic new offer.
Others to back the deal include opposition Conservative councillors, with a unanimous decision being reached during private discussions this afternoon.
Group leader Coun Foster said: "It is clear that something radical needed to happen to put ACL onto a firm financial footing for the future.
"I hope today marks a new start for the Ricoh and CCFC, it is now time for Sisu to engage constructively about the future.
"The whole of Coventry will be looking at their reaction."
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