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Supreme Court refuses football club owners permission to appeal state aid ruling

The Supreme Court has refused companies related to the owners of Coventry City Football Club, Sisu, permission to appeal in a dispute over decisions taken by Coventry City Council in relation to the Ricoh Arena.

The local authority had decided to extend Arena Coventry Limited’s (ACL’s) lease of the stadium to 250 years. The city council also sold its 50% share in ACL to Wasps RFC, with the rugby club also acquiring the other 50% share from the Alan Edward Higgs Charity. 

The appellants were seeking to appeal the Court of Appeal’s ruling in R (Sky Blue Sports & Leisure Ltd) v Coventry City Council (No. 2) [2018] EWCA Civ 2252, where the judges upheld a decision by Mr Justice Singh, as he then was, to refuse permission for judicial review.

Ricoh Stadium 43353763 sAccording to 11KBW, whose James Goudie QC and Ronnie Dennis appeared for the council, the Supreme Court appeal panel (Lady Hale, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lady Arden) refused Sisu’s application for permission to appeal that judgment, on the basis that it did not raise any arguable point of law.

In a joint statement Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, and Cllr Gary Ridley, Leader of the opposition Conservative Group, said: “We are delighted with the judgment from the highest court in the land which once again justifies why we have robustly defended all claims brought by Sisu-related companies over recent years.

“Sisu has continually sought to re-open decisions taken by the council almost five years ago but we have always remained steadfast in our belief that those decisions were appropriate, lawful and in the best interests of Coventry tax payers.

“We hope that this will be the last stage of the litigation and that Sisu will accept this as the end of all legal action so that further unnecessary costs are avoided for all parties involved. The continuing litigation is achieving nothing apart from alienating them from the partners in the city who they should be working with to secure a successful and sustainable future for Coventry City Football Club here in this city.”

In March the council urged Sisu to drop all legal action relating to the Ricoh Arena if it wanted the club to play there next season. Wasps has refused to negotiate while the legal action is ongoing.

On 11 April the football club said it was close to heads of terms stage with two groundshare options, neither of which is the Ricoh Arena.

James Goudie QC and Ronnie Dennis were instructed by Julie Newman and Laura Stockin of Coventry City Council’s Legal Department.

See also: 11KBW’s analysis of the Court of Appeal ruling

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