Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has issued Coventry City with an eviction notice days after buying their home ground.
After the club refused to sign a new, “less favourable”, tenancy agreement, officials were told on Friday to return keys and access cards for the Coventry Building Society Arena and have also been instructed to remove goods and property from the stadium.
The Championship side said in a statement: “Following the Frasers Group acquisition of the stadium from administrators, Coventry City have been told that we must agree a new licence to play at the Arena.
“We were surprised to learn of this intention by Frasers Group, given that discussions with Coventry City prior to the completion of their purchase of the Arena led us to understand the existing terms would continue unchanged with Frasers Group as the new owners of the Arena.
“Coventry City Football Club has an existing long-term licence to play at the Arena, which was agreed in March 2021 to run until 2031.
“Frasers Group have now presented to Coventry City a new agreement with new commercial terms, which have been presented to us without any dialogue or negotiations, and are less favourable to the Football Club. In addition, this licence would only run until May 2023.
“Frasers Group have said they would negotiate for beyond May 2023, but this leaves us without the security and certainty that our current deal provides to us and our fans.
“To confirm, Coventry City are happy to continue under terms of the current licence which we already have in place to play at the Arena.
“Following Frasers Group’s purchase of the Arena, one of the great assets of the City of Coventry, they stated they were ‘looking forward to working with Coventry City Football Club’.
“Coventry City hope that they will act on those words for the good of the Arena, the Football Club, our fans and the City and community that they are now part of.
“Coventry City had envisaged being able to deal with this situation internally, but following media reports this morning, we will continue to keep supporters updated regarding the situation going forward and hope that we will continue to be able to welcome our fans to our home at the Coventry Building Society Arena.”
News of the eviction notice emerged after Coventry announced on Friday that their FA Youth Cup game against Southampton the following day had been switched to Leamington FC “due to unforeseen circumstances”.
Frasers Group said: “Frasers has, throughout all its involvement with the stadium, been supportive of securing the long-term future of CCFC playing its games at the stadium. This position remains unchanged.
“Prior to acquiring the stadium, Frasers issued a new licence mirroring the terms CCFC had agreed with the previous owners. However, CCFC chose not to sign it back to that time.
“A revised proposal, together with a new licence, has been issued to CCFC and will secure the immediate future of CCFC at the stadium. Signing the licence would allow for more detailed discussions to take place about CCFC’s long-term arrangements at the stadium, including to accommodate the number of requests which were raised by CCFC.
“Frasers looks forward to working with the club to host the upcoming games.”
Frasers Group bought the CBS Arena on November 17 after the stadium business was plunged into administration in a fate tied to that of previous owners Wasps.
The Ashley-owned empire succeeded with a £17 million bid after a last-gasp legal challenge from Coventry’s prospective new owner, Doug King, who went on to complete his purchase of the club.
King had made a £25m offer while in the process of buying the Championship side but a judge ruled it had come too late, with Frasers having already secured preferred bidder status with the arena businesses’ administrators.
Former Newcastle United owner Ashley has a reputation for striking a hard bargain and fans have previously raised fears he would seek to raise Coventry’s rent.
The club have twice been made homeless in recent years due to rows between their former owners, Sisu, and the stadium’s previous landlords.
They also explored playing home matches at Walsall when the CBS Arena first went into administration.
Their next home game is not scheduled until December 17, buying them time to end any impasse with Frasers or find somewhere else to play.