Coventry City agree deal to return to Ricoh Arena

League One side Coventry City are to return to the Ricoh Arena after agreeing a two-year deal with the company that runs the stadium.

The Sky Blues have been playing their home games in Northampton since the start of the 2013-14 season after a long-running row over rent.

But, after negotiations over the last month, the stalemate has been resolved.

The agreement can be extended until 2018, with the first game set to be against Gillingham on 5 September.

"We had an end in sight and we've got over that finishing line," Chris Robinson chairman of Arena Coventry Limited, the company that runs the Ricoh Arena, told BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.

Fans' reaction: Jan Mokrzycki from the Sky Blue Trust

"It's really a victory for fan power and common sense. Obviously the two sides in the negotiations have put the past behind them. It's time for supporters to unite and get behind the team. It hasn't felt like our team. It was a team playing in Northampton. It wasn't Coventry City."

"Discussions that have taken place over the last month with Steve Waggott, development director from CCFC, have been conducted with great spirit and a real sense of commitment, to secure the return of the club to the city.

"The focus now is on the future and trying to get the Arena as busy as possible and try and deliver a great matchday experience for the supporters."

The deal ends a stand-off between ACL and then-Sky Blues owners Sisu which dates back to April 2012.

Coventry argued that their relegation from the Championship to League One that year left them unable to afford the £100,000 rent and stopped payments.

Coventry fans protest

Coventry fans protested outside Sixfields at the club's League Cup defeat by Cardiff, which was watched by 1,382

A debt of over £1m accrued over the next 12 months as the row continued, with part of the club placed into administration.

That led to a 10-point deduction in March 2013 before the club was bought by Otium Entertainment Group only to be hit with another 10-point penalty for the start of last season.

With no end to the dispute with ACL, Otium announced the club had agreed an initial three-year deal to groundshare with Northampton Town while it put plans together to build a brand new home for the Sky Blues back in the Coventry area.

Despite protests from fans, the club duly moved into their new 'home' 34 miles from Coventry for the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

But many supporters opted not to go to games at Sixfields, with the Sky Blues attracting an average home attendance of only 2,348 last season, the lowest in the division.

This summer the Football League stepped in ordering Coventry to pay ACL just under £500,000 to try and resolve the issue.

Coventry City at Sixfields

Stats correct to 21 Aug 2014

Won

Drawn

Lost

League One

10

9

6

League Cup

-

-

1

FA Cup

1

-

-

Total

11

9

7

With both parties happy, the path was cleared for further negotiations leading to the club's return to its former home.

"We are under no illusion what a difficult 12 months it has been for the supporters and that was uppermost in our thinking as we worked to get this deal done," Sky Blues development director Waggott said.

"There has had to be compromise on both sides and the commercial details of the deal will remain confidential.

"Now it is all about looking forward to a really exciting season back in the community and with a real chance of success.

"I am sure every supporter will want to give Steven Pressley, his staff and players their full backing for the season at the Ricoh."

Coventry City council, which part-owns the Ricoh Arena, expressed its relief at the resolution of the row.

A statement said:  "This is a day thousands of fans have been hoping for and it's great news for everyone who cares about the club and the city.

"We've always been clear that we wanted the Sky Blues playing again in their rightful home, the Ricoh Arena. That will now happen."