2nd Jul, 2022

EXCLUSIVE: This leaked email reveals council bid to block Coventry City F.C Butts groundshare

Les Reid 18th May, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE LEAKED Coventry City Council email exclusively published below blows the lid on council attempts to block a Sky Blues move from the Wasps-owned Ricoh Arena to Cov rugby club’s Butts Park Arena.

Our website exclusively revealed this morning the council had attempted to block the proposal in January – and the Coventry City/Coventry rugby club groundshare proposal first revealed by us in November was yesterday confirmed to the rugby club’s fans by its chairman Jon Sharp.

The confidential leaked email below, which we referred to in our story this morning, was sent by council officer Julie Sprayson in legal services to rugby club personnel.

The email was part of confidential council deliberations with Coventry Rugby Football Club concerning Mr Sharp’s attempts to obtain a 125-year head lease to the wider Butts Park Arena site from Chris Millerchip. He is a former Cov rugby player now living in New York. The rugby club currently holds a sub-lease.

Mr Sharp had stated publicly last December that the transfer of the head lease was necessary for him to press on with his redevelopment plans.

The redevelopment is in turn necessary to enable the Cov rugby/Sky Blues groundshare proposal – which aims to ensure the survival of two of the city’s greatest traditional sporting institutions.

It is understood the head lease transaction is expected to be completed imminently. It is not clear what legal power, if any, Coventry council as freeholder would actually have to prevent Mr Sharp obtaining the head lease without the restrictions, which the rugby club objects to.

But the council’s January email clearly seeks to place a condition of the lease transfer that no professional football or associated training activities would be permitted at the Butts Park Arena for the full 125-year term of the lease.

It states: “Thank you for your e-mail concerning the above mentioned matter.

I have now liaised with my instructing officer, Nigel Clews of Place Directorate and can confirm that the Council is still happy to proceed with the deed as detailed in your e-mail.

The Council would however wish to raise one issue following recent items in the local press suggesting that professional football was coming to the Butts Arena. I suspect that this is not the case however the Council naturally wants to protect its position as well as the Rugby Club.

It is suggested that we look to add a new clause 12 to the Licence which make a variation or agreement/acknowledgement between the parties that the reference within clause 13.1 of the lease to “any other leisure and sporting activities and uses” shall specifically exclude professional association football or training associated therewith.

I would welcome your comments on the above and hopefully we can agree some wording.

Julie Sprayson – Place Team

Resources Directorate – Legal Services”

It is understood that council delay ever since has held up aspects of advancing the Butts groundshare proposals.

While a Sky Blues move to the Butts Park Arena is still only a proposal, the football club believes it needs revenue from a stadium’s 24/7 commercial activities to survive, while Mr Sharp believes a groundshare would help fulfill his ambitions for a bigger stadium with more commercial activity for the rugby club.

Premiership rugby club Wasps obtain revenues from the Ricoh Arena where Coventry City Football Club is a mere tenant.

Previous Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) owners the council and Alan Edward Higgs Charity in 2014 sold the Ricoh’s operating company ACL to Wasps on a massively extended 250-year lease not offered to the Sky Blues.

Council leaders have sought to protect the Ricoh project as what they claim is a regenerative scheme for the disadvantaged north of Coventry, although the project always partly depended on the football club’s money.

The Coventry Observer this morning contacted incoming council leader George Duggins – who takes over from ousted leader Ann Lucas tomorrow. We are awaiting a council response.

Click the links below to our full story earlier today, and our exclusive about the Butts groundshare proposal from last November.

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