Exclusive: Coventry City could sue landlords Wasps after 'unsafe' pitch forces second postponement

·3 min read
The Coventry Building Society Arena pitch - GETTY IMAGES
The Coventry Building Society Arena pitch - GETTY IMAGES

Coventry City are considering legal action against Wasps after being forced to postpone a second home match this season over an “unsafe and unplayable” Coventry Building Society Arena pitch.

Telegraph Sport has been told the Championship club could sue their Rugby Premiership landlords for failing to provide a playing surface that is “safe and fit for purpose” and to compensate them for any lost revenue.

The major escalation in the row between the two clubs follows the announcement that Coventry’s home match against Wigan on Tuesday had been called off following an “independent” pitch inspection.

It also comes after Wasps owner Derek Richardson was forced to deny the club was to enter administration amid suggestions on social media that they were on the brink of going bust.

'It is our supporters who are suffering'

Coventry’s opening home game of the season against Rotherham last weekend had already been called off due to the state of the pitch – on which 65 rugby Sevens matches were played in three days during the Commonwealth Games – while they had to play their Carabao Cup first-round tie against Bristol City to Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday night. Coventry’s home game against Huddersfield Town next Saturday is also under threat.

Accusing Wasps of reneging on a “promised investment into a new pitch” and of failing to deliver an “action plan” they vowed to implement last weekend, Coventry chief executive Dave Boddy said: “It is our supporters who are suffering in this mess, and the players and staff too.

“These are incredibly difficult circumstances for the football club. The pitch has now been independently found to be unsafe and unplayable by the agronomists and previously by EFL [English Football League] match officials, and we are now desperate for this situation to be resolved by the Arena and Wasps.”

'The pitch is under enormous strain'

Wasps chief executive Stephen Vaughan did not respond to requests for comment, having issued a statement on Tuesday which read: “In May we informed CCFC that we would not be relaying the pitch. No objection was raised to that course of action then or at any other time.

“Maintaining a pitch with two sports on it is always a challenge, so the recent unique set of circumstances has been particularly difficult and has naturally put the pitch under enormous strain.

“The business has a number of priorities to deal with. Despite what some may think, we want CCFC to play all their home games here and it benefits no-one when there are issues such as this played out in public with incorrect or missing information.

“It is extremely disappointing to, yet again, be defending ourselves against rumour and accusation, particularly as it’s the supporters of CCFC and Wasps who are having to deal with the fallout. We won’t be getting involved in a protracted, public discussion about this, which serves no-one’s interest, but felt we needed to ensure people had the correct information.”

Wasps acquired a 250-year lease on the Coventry Building Society Arena from freeholders Coventry City Council in 2014, shortly before launching a £35 million bond scheme to help finance the purchase.

Bondholders were due to be repaid this summer but the club announced a delay, compounding major fears over their future raised when they requested millions of pounds of public money from the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Coventry, meanwhile, have been repeatedly exiled from the stadium since it was built amid rows over rent. Last year they signed a 10-year license to play there until 2031.