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Council Leader Responds To City Statement

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30 Oct 2013 16:53:12

Council Leader Responds To City Statement

Ann Lucas has her say

Coventry City Council Leader Ann Lucas has issued a response to the statement issued by Coventry City FC earlier today regarding talks over the Ricoh Arena.

The statement is as follows:

"I am responding to the article in the Coventry Telegraph of 30 October 2013 headlined 'Coventry city owners invite Council to talks over Sky Blues returning to Ricoh Arena', and a statement issued by Coventry City Football Club.

"Let me deal with areas of agreement first of all.  Coventry City Football Club is absolutely right that we should try to avoid 'tit for tat' press releases.  I do not wish to be secretive where there is no need for secrecy.  I would rather be open and I recognise that openness and transparency are important to everyone involved in this issue.  However, there are issues of commercial sensitivity and on-going legal issues that make it impossible to comment fully on every issue that is raised by every party in this dispute.

"That said, and to paraphrase the words of the Coventry City Football Club statement, let me cut through the spin and focus on the specifics and put everyone in the picture.

"One.  The statement that I made to the Full Meeting of the City Council on Tuesday 22 October was not 'rushed out' following the demonstration by fans outside the Council House.   I had been considering making a statement to Council about these issues for some two or more weeks beforehand, and had discussed doing so with my closest political colleagues.  I recognise that the demonstration by fans outside the Council House on Tuesday 22 October was important to them, and I and my fellow councillors are extremely mindful of their concerns.  But it is ridiculous to suggest that I rushed out a statement because of their presence or their petition.  If I responded in that manner, I would be making a statement on every issue of contention at every Full Council meeting.

"Two.  The statement was not drafted by ACL's London-based PR Consultants.  It is a lie to suggest that it was drafted by them.  The statement was my words and my words alone.  The statement was checked for factual inaccuracy and to ensure that nothing within it was defamatory by council officers.  I will have to disagree with Coventry City Football Club as to whether or not it contained more generalisations than specific action points.

"Three.  For those who missed it, I attach a copy of my original statement in full. 

"Four.  It is public knowledge I have written to Joy Seppala, inviting her to meet with me.  She has not done so.  She has given a personal interview to the Coventry Telegraph about this issue but she has been unprepared to meet with me.  My offer to meet with her remains open.  If she wishes to meet with me then she should contact my office to make arrangements to do so.  I am prepared to meet with her privately if she is prepared to enter into a constructive, meaningful and mature discussion about the Ricoh Arena.  I am not prepared to enter into an adversarial or confrontational discussion which would achieve nothing.  Time is running out.  If Joy Seppala is serious about wanting to discuss a possible deal, then we need to talk soon.  This is something else I agree with the football club about. There will be a point, in the very near future, where we will be overtaken by events, not least the outcome of Sisu's renewed Application to the High Court for Judicial Review which is listed for 28 November.

"Five.  My statement to Full Council on Tuesday 22 October confirms that all options are available for discussion.  I am prepared to discuss, subject to contract, and without prejudice to the on-going court case, the issue of stadium ownership with Joy Seppala just as I have been prepared to discuss stadium ownership with other interested third parties in the past.  The difference is they came to meet with me, whereas I have yet to meet with Joy Seppala.  If Joy Seppala does not wish to meet with me at the Council House, then I am prepared to meet with her at another mutually agreed neutral venue.  But I remind everyone, it takes two to tango!

"Six. The statement from Coventry City Football Club contains another wholly factual inaccuracy.  It states:

"We believe that Councillor Lucas' predecessor as Leader, Councillor John Mutton, met with her very recently to confirm that he had been prepared to discuss stadium ownership with other parties and urged her to negotiate with us."

"I have not met with Councillor Mutton to discuss the issue of stadium ownership with other parties, nor has he urged me to negotiate with Coventry City Football Club, nor Sisu/Otium.  I am sure that Councillor Mutton will be prepared to confirm the wholly erroneous nature of this part of the statement issued by Coventry City Football Club.

"Seven. The statement by Coventry City Football Club states "there is never any legal bar on the truth".  Again, I agree with Coventry City Football Club on that point so I ask why their statement claims:

"..and we'd still like to know the real reason why Councillor Lucas authorised ACL's rejection of the CVA which cost "my beloved Sky Blues" another ten points."

"That statement suggests that I authorised ACL's rejection of the CVA.  That is untrue.  The decision to reject the CVA was made by the Board of ACL.  Neither I nor any other councillor serves on that board.  To claim, as Coventry City Football Club did, that I authorised the refusal of the CVA credits me with an authority and a power that I did not and do not possess.  I am aware that ACL took the position it did on the CVA to persuade the club to come back to the Ricoh Arena as a condition of accepting the CVA and accept a rental offer of £150,000 a year. Unfortunately the club did not want to accept the offer. I suppose it is too much to expect the humility of an apology from Coventry City Football Club for such a misleading statement?

"To summarise, I am disappointed but not surprised by the inaccuracies within the statement issued by Coventry City Football Club.

"I am disappointed but not surprised by the personal nature of the attack upon me by Coventry City Football Club.  I can reassure the football club and its fans that it will not stop me doing what I believe to be right for the city, for the Ricoh Arena, and for the football club.

"I am disappointed but not surprised that Joy Seppala has not yet met with me.  I cannot understand why she is so fearful or reluctant to do so because I had hoped that we might develop a professional working relationship that would be to the benefit of all parties concerned.

"So for one last time, I say, quite clearly, that I am prepared to meet with Joy Seppala and to have a discussion with her without prejudice and subject to contract in relation to all and any issues in relation to the Ricoh Arena, the land around it, and Coventry City Football Club. 

"But let me be clear, the clock is ticking and time is moving on.  I will not lead the Council into a state of paralysis around this issue.  Difficult times call for difficult decisions.  If this matter cannot be resolved by the turn of the year, then I and all of my colleagues on the Labour Group on Coventry City Council will look to put in place a process which ensures the best possible deal for the people of Coventry in relation to the Ricoh Arena."

Source: Coventry MAD


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