I first purchased a season ticket in 2001, the season after we got relegated from the Premier League. At that point I thought the only way was up – with Bryan Richardson’s statement that it would be a ‘bit of fun’ playing against these lesser teams I was optimistic about watching Coventry win a few games (something I’d never really experienced) and was confident that within one or two seasons they’d find their way back up into the Premier League.
I was sad at where we were but excited at the prospect of rejuvenation, disappointed but optimistic.
Twelve years on I feel much the same, but not for footballing reasons. Friday is without question the most important day in the club’s history since 1987. Since the fateful day when Bryan Richardson decided that selling Highfield Road and therefore cleaving the club from it’s most important financial and structural asset, Friday has been coming. With one swipe of his pen he began the process which culminates on Friday when the club is more than likely to enter administration. The chain of events since that signature is well known to all Coventry fans, painful underachievement, poor management, suspect players and incompetent leadership.
Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t really have a side in the ACL v SISU debate, I grudgingly respected SISU for saving us from administration in 2007 and I recognised that without the complex birth of ACL we would have been homeless. That changed a few days ago when I listened to Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen being interviewed on CWR, a man with a clear passion for Coventry City – a passion I have never heard or seen from any SISU ‘face’.
To me there is a clear conclusion. However unpalatable their structure and however frustrating to have them push the club into administration, ACL are more interested in a sustainable future for Coventry City than SISU. Put simply, the core shareholders and day to day stakeholders in ACL will lose more sleep over Coventry City not existing than anyone (if there is anyone left) at SISU. People talk about the finance SISU have pumped into the club, granted this means they need the club to continue to stand any chance of ever seeing any percentage of that money returned to them. However, all the evidence suggests that after the rescue package they provided last season they were reaching the point where they would cut the chord and run away. Another year of accounts not being filed, more statements from Tim Fisher around having to persuade SISU to continue funding the club. When ACL state that they have moved for administration on the basis that they wish to prevent SISU being able to liquidate the club I believe them, for the simple reason that in doing so they are in effect writing off a large portion of the money they are owed (any settlement from an administration process will not be close to the full debt). To take such a drastic step, ACL and their CCC shareholders must have genuinely feared for the existence of the club and I applaud them for making a brave move.
Friday excites me, I’m hoping it will be a seminal day in the rebirth of the club. A new, transparent ownership structure (with persons as yet unknown), a clear relationship with ACL, a path towards stadium ownership, the end to the cloak and dagger dealings of SISU. On reflection SISU have been a brutal combination of faceless incompetence. Bad ownership could be tolerated to a certain extent, as long as those responsible are willing to stand up in public and explain their decisions and justify their actions. Ken Bates is a prime example, a man many Leeds fans loathed, but at least they knew who he was. The fact that after five years I have no idea what Joy Seppala looks like in many ways sums up our owners and their motives.
I hate the fact that I’m looking forward to my club going into administration, but after the past 24mths I cannot face any continuation with the way the club is currently run and the outright negativity which pervades every element. It’s frustrating that the good will and honest support of so many thousands of fans has been caught up in this saga, but the end is in sight. The Coventry City which emerges from the process can only be stronger than the one we have now, even with any prolonged legal battle and 10/15 point deduction. I’m disappointed we’re in this mess, but I’m excited about getting out of it.