Coventry City have had to play at a number of different venues in recent years. When the club finally announced that they will return to CBS Arena, the deal had to be cancelled. With the new ownership, the team has reached an agreement to stay there until the end of the current season.
Coventry City have lived a nomadic life in recent years, playing their home games at various venues, including Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium and Birmingham City’s St Andrews. They’ve even played the odd game at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium.
When the club finally announced that they would return to CBS Arena, City fans breathed a sigh of relief and returned their focus to the club’s push for Premier League football. But as has been the case with Coventry City for the past few decades, the return to CBS Arena was not quite what it seemed.
The issues stem from the fact that Coventry City have never actually owned the impressive stadium in their city, and since they left their much-loved home at Highfield Road in 2005, they have been tenants of the Coventry Stadium, which has played host to a whole lot of sports and events over the years.
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CBS Arena was formerly known as the Ricoh Arena, which hosted various events, like live music concerts and even poker tournaments.
The tumult surrounding Coventry’s stadium has made many fans think the arena is cursed. When they finally returned to CBS Arena at the start of the 2022 season, the pitch was deemed “unplayable,” leading many within the fanbase to suggest that a malevolent being simply does not want City to play at the venue – the ghost of Highfield Road, perhaps?
Regardless, with the pitch repaired, the club’s previous 10-year agreement to play at CBS Arena with owners Wasps was null and void when the rugby club plunged into administration. This is where Mike Ashley – opportunist businessman and former Newcastle United owner – and his Frasers Group came into the picture.
For reasons not yet clear, Ashley purchased CBS Arena in a deal worth £17 million and served Coventry City FC with an eviction notice soon after completing the deal. However, Ashley welcomed City back to the negotiating table, and it was announced that a short-term deal was agreed upon for the football club to remain at the stadium.
City fans can rest assured that their team will be playing at CBS Arena until the end of the 2022/23 season at least, but the two parties are now looking to plan for a long-term agreement to ensure Coventry City can finally call the arena home.
An uncertain future?
When the initial plans to leave Highfield Road in the late 1990s materialised, Coventry fans were not remotely impressed. Yes, the ground was a little old-fashioned, but it certainly was not in a state of disrepair, and anyone who attended Highfield Road will tell you of a brilliant atmosphere.
But even the most sceptical among the Coventry City fanbase could not have predicted the circus that would have ensued following the club’s move from Highfield Road to seemingly greener pastures.
The SISU Group have – in the opinion of many Coventry fans – sucked the life out of the club, which has been reflected by the team’s performances on the field, as well as the issues the club has faced off the field, seeing them move from town to town to play their home matches.
While SISU’s tenure appears to be coming to an end, Mike Ashley’s entrance into the fray is a spanner in the works that the City fans could surely do without. The businessman employed a SISU-like approach to his tenure at Newcastle United, investing very little and departing with the club a shadow of its former self.
The fact that Ashley now owns the CBS Arena means that City’s new owners will have a job on their hands to fight for residence at their rightful home, as Ashley’s intentions for the stadium are unclear.
© Slovak / stadiony.net
But given what Coventry City fans have had to put up with in recent years, they will not care what Ashley calls the arena. They will not care if they have to stare at Fraser’s Group advertising hoardings, and they will not care if they have to drink their half-time Bovril out of giant Sports Direct mugs.
All they care about is a return to their city and, hopefully, a return to the top flight for one of England’s most historic and best-supported football clubs.