After an extraordinary meeting on June 9, it was voted that League One and Two would end nine games earlier than scheduled. The “overwhelming majority” vote reported by the EFL, means Coventry City FC will be crowned League One Champions, a first league title since they won the Second Division in 1967.
Whilst the victory may have been blighted by the current global situation, few will grumble with the decision to make Coventry champions. The West Midlands side have lost only three league games all season. A 1-0 defeat to Tranmere in October being their only defeat at home all season.
This home reverse, whilst surprising in itself given the opposition, perfectly highlights the bizarre situation that Coventry currently find themselves in. With the RICOH Arena, now owned by London Wasps RFC, a deal could not be agreed for Coventry to continue to play football there.
So on June 7, 2019 it was decided that the Sky Blues would play their home games at the Birmingham City’s ground St Andrew’s. This deal has the potential to last for two more seasons as Coventry remain without a permanent home.
A strange enough circumstance in itself, but made almost comical when Coventry and Birmingham were drawn against each other in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup this season.
The first leg, a 0-0 draw, was held on January 25, with Birmingham being the ‘away’ team. Birmingham won the reverse fixture on penalties, meaning that Coventry’s ‘home’ record for the season will bizarrely just be the sole defeat to Tranmere.
The recent history of a club on the edge
The sad state of affairs that the club currently find themselves in, is by no means a flash in the pan. Following their relegation to League One in 2012, Coventry found themselves in administration in March 2013 after an ongoing dispute over the stadium. As punishment for this, they were docked 10 points ahead of the following season.
The 2013/14 campaign saw the Sky Blues leave the RICOH Arena for the first time, spending a season playing their home fixtures 35 miles away at the Sixfields Stadium in Northampton. Despite returning to their home city at the end of the season, the situation had not found a lasting resolution.
Understandably, fan frustration was shown by continually dwindling gate receipts, as their club remained in a state of limbo over its future. Such was the severity of the situation that a parliamentary discussion over the circumstances of the club was held in February 2018.
The only recent joy for the supporters has come on the pitch. Despite being relegated to the fourth division, in 2018 the Sky Blues lifted the EFL Trophy at Wembley. This was their first honour since the FA Cup victory against Tottenham in 1987.
Having enjoyed a taste for success, Coventry returned to Wembley the following season. They left as League Two Play-off Champions. And now, two seasons after that, they find themselves champions of League One, returning to the Championship for the first time in eight years.
Whilst marred by the behaviour of fans in the city centre this week, the elation of Coventry’s title victory shows the actual depth of support for the club within the city.
Both of the trips to Wembley showed the extent of the problem. Needless to say, not having your own stadium isn’t exactly ideal. But when the Sky Blues sold out their ticket allocations in London on both occasions, and had the streets filled with fans upon their return to the city, it was clear that this is a club with a huge fan base.
Despite this, Coventry’s record league home attendance for the 2019/20 season was just over 10,000. And who can blame the fans for not travelling to another city to go and see their ‘home’ games? A club that has been seemingly run into the ground by their owners, despite interest from other investors, and let down by the city council over the sale of the RICOH, is in danger of finally pushing away the rest of its fan base.
Celebrations can’t paper over cracks
Whilst the city and its people should be celebrating their moment right now, it cannot be escaped that this is a club that remains in desperate need of repair.
Luckily they currently have a manager who is fully aware of the situation. Former Manchester United player, Mark Robins, returned to manage Coventry in 2017, and has clearly been instrumental in the rebuilding of the club on the pitch.
In his interviews following the EFL decision this week though, he has shown his empathy with the fans, and their situation. “We want to be in our own stadium in Coventry,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing that can happen for this club.”
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