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Owners of football club end 10-year dispute with council over alleged state aid in sale of stadium

The long-running legal dispute over alleged unlawful state aid in Coventry City Council's sale of the Ricoh Arena has ended after the European Commission declined a complaint brought by the owner of Coventry City Football Club.

In May 2019 Sisu, which owns the football club, complained to the Commission that the sale of the Ricoh Arena - where Coventry City played and as it was then known - to Wasps rugby club breached state aid rules by selling at less than its true value.

The Supreme Court had the previous month refused companies related to Sisu permission to appeal in a dispute over the arena sale after it had lost earlier cases.

Following the European Commission's decision, a statement from the football club said: “The owners of Coventry City Football Club have ended all proceedings relating to the sale of the Coventry Building Society Arena (formerly the Ricoh Arena) to Wasps Rugby Club.”

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The dispute had lasted for more than 10 years.

Sisu said its decision would allow the football club and Coventry City Council “to open a meaningful dialogue for the first time in a decade”.

Club owner Joy Seppala said: “As we move forward with our vision, we want to draw a clear line under the past and continue to build new and strong relationships with all our partners, including Coventry City Council.

“We can now move forward to achieve this, and together, deliver a football club which the city of Coventry can continue to be proud.”

Council leader George Duggins said he still awaited official confirmation that the proceedings had been closed.

He said: “We were always confident that our actions where legitimate as confirmed through a number of court cases including before the high court and court of appeal. 

“But now is not a time to look backwards. We have always said that our aim as a council has been to have a successful Sky Blues side playing in its home city in front of its faithful supporters, with everyone working together to achieve success. It is what the team deserves and what the fans deserve.”

Mark Smulian

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