|My last column, focusing on the recently published
annual report and accounts of Coventry City Holdings, the Sky Blues'
parent company, prompted some interesting responses from CWN
Brant, for example, felt it was a "good piece - well
written". Thanks Brant, and when it all becomes clear to me, I
will endeavour to write the piece you request giving a step-by-step
guide to the new stadium.
Another reader Steve, however, questioned some of the views I
expressed. For example, he took me to task over my assertion that
the clubs' debt had now been reduced by around £20-million since 31
May, the date to which the accounts run.
My calculations, take into account the reduction in wages that
followed the sale of players in the summer as well as the transfer
fees received. That, plus other cost-cutting measures taken by the
club as a consequence of being relegated, has reduced the debt by
around £20-million. I am also assured by excellent sources (not
Bryan Richardson, by the way) that imminent developments regarding
the new stadium will have the effect of significantly reducing the
Now let me stress that as a Coventry City supporter and
shareholder I read the accounts with as much concern as anyone.
However, the point I was trying to make in my last column was that
an increase in debt for a club of City's size and stature was
inevitable if we were to even try and hold our own alongside the big
boys of the Premiership.
There are ways to fight free of that debt and, indeed, to turn it
round, but they are not things that happen overnight, or indeed, in
a few years. Relocating to a new stadium, designed in such a way
that you can utilise the asset as a continuous revenue stream from
other uses than football, is one such strategy.
It is almost certain now, by the way, that our new stadium will
not have a sliding roof or a sliding pitch, but will probably have a
multi-purpose indoor arena alongside it to allow for concerts and
other sporting events to be held. That is, apparently, a less costly
and simpler option to achieve (though should common sense prevail
and the new National Stadium, against all the odds, come to
Coventry, the original arena design will be built for that purpose
with the club almost certainly housed elsewhere in Coventry).
Steve also takes me to task over my use of the word
"allegedly" when referring to Bryan Richardson as an
architect of the proposed Phoenix League. I used the word quite
deliberately and I stand by it. Bryan has shrugged off claims that
he is the man behind the idea and, indeed, the Bradford City
Chairman Geoffrey Richmond said on Sky Sports News at the weekend
that he and "a number of other First Division Chairmen"
were in at the birth of the plan.
It is highly probable that Bryan was one of those Chairmen and he
may even have been the prime mover, but no one has held their hand
up yet to say, "it's my idea".
We may be, as you say, "a hate target for many other
clubs" because of Bryan Richardson's association with the plan.
So what? If people can't see the wood for the trees that is their
Jimmy Hill was not exactly Mr Popular when he successfully fought
for the abolition of the maximum wage, many fans fearing that their
clubs would no longer be able to afford the £100-plus per week the
top players would demand. Little did they know!
I stand by what I said last time. Television, provider of the
most significant single source of income for football, will not pay
the same amount again for the same product. ITV blew a hole in
everything when they paid way over the top for the rights they
currently enjoy. They will not be back with anything like the same
money; Sky knows that, so does the BBC and both are privately
relieved in the knowledge that football will cost them less next
TV football ratings are falling, too, and it's clear that Sky, in
particular, wants a new product to offer to its subscribers. The
current system won't do. ITV's audiences for the Nationwide League
are dire, leaving the Premiership as the only truly saleable
domestic commodity that football has.
While the existing Premiership clubs are being naturally
protective of their cartel, they must wake up to the fact that TV
money will dwindle, even for them, unless they agree to a shake-up.
The Phoenix League, as proposed, is clearly just one option, but it
solves - at a stroke - the issue of the wannabe Premiership clubs in
the First Division by creating a Premiership 2, and the issue of
Celtic and Rangers joining in.
As Celtic manager Martin O'Neill said at the weekend, if the two
Glasgow giants want to continue to attract good players they must
offer a better standard of football than is currently on offer in
Scotland. The Premiership is the answer, and shoe-horning them into
a new Phoenix League is the best way anyone has yet come up with of
bringing them in.
Steve, as many others are, is also sharply critical of the
financial benefits Bryan Richardson has received for being Sky Blues
Chairman. I am not going to comment on specifics because I don't
know the true facts anymore than Steve or any other City fan, but I
repeat my point that, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a
Club Chairman (or Deputy Chairman, as at some clubs) being paid a
salary for the time he devotes to doing the job.
Indeed, some of the companies for whom Club Chairman otherwise
work actually demand that the equivalent of a salary (usually in
six-figures) is paid directly to them as compensation for the time
taken up by that Chairman in running his club.
Whether Bryan Richardson should have received the amount he has,
and the other benefits that go with it, is a matter over which we
can all hold opinions, yet it comes down in the end to whether the
board of directors - and more particularly, the club's owners, the
largest individual shareholders - are prepared to sanction it.
You can disagree with them, you can even protest for what it's
worth, but you cannot change the contractual relationship that
exists between the Chairman, the board and the owners.
Only they can do that.
What we all can and should do, is get behind a side that we know
is capable of winning this division. It is desperately short of
confidence right now and needs all the help it can get.
A few goals will make a lot of difference. A season ago, many of
the shots on target that Lee Hughes is currently responsible for
would have become goals. At the moment he is hitting the goalkeepers
arms, knees and backside, the post, the bar and if that fails it
seems there's a defender scrambling back to make a sensational
No-one is working harder, as his performance on his old stamping
ground in West Bromwich proved, and the arrival of Lee Mills has
undoubtedly given Hughes more room to work in.
But he and the rest of the team need a lift that only supporters
can give. The loyal and true who roar the Sky Blue Song and the rest
of the repertoire at the tops of their voices match after match are
to be commended, to say the least.
More of the same is greatly needed and will, I know, be much