Coventry City face a serious risk of liquidation on Friday and a severe points deduction, potentially plunging the club into deeper crisis one day before the start of their League One season.
The Sky Blues, who are in administration, are due to have a final creditors meeting on Friday at which Arena Coventry Limited, the owner of the Ricoh Arena and jointly made up of Coventry city council and the Higgs Trust, would need to sign a company voluntary arrangement that would secure payment to creditors, if the club are to exit administration.
On Tuesday ACL claimed it would consider signing the CVA if specific amendments were made. One amendment ACL requested was that the club sign a new 10-year rent deal at the Ricoh, significantly reducing the annual rent on the stadium to £150,000 a year, down from the previous £1.3m contract.
However, the Coventry City chief executive, Tim Fisher, said ACL's amendments would not be made to the CVA and that a planned groundshare with Northampton Town would go ahead.
"They've run us up against a cliff edge of liquidation and they've moved to tip us over," Fisher said. "All I can say is that it is the biggest crying shame.
"How can a public body not accept a complete CVA where they will get the money that they are owed, instead of a liquidation where they will get a fraction of that, potentially one-sixtieth of what they would have got?
"This isn't a financial situation of our making; there is no financial gain. Actually there is economic and financial wreckage at the club. I'm not sure we could have done anything differently."
It means Coventry will play their home matches 30 miles away at Sixfields for at least three seasons while the club, recently taken over by the London-based Otium Entertainment Group, which has strong links to the previous owner Sisu, build a new stadium elsewhere. They are considering redeveloping Brandon race track and a site in the south-west of Coventry.
The Sky Blues will still be able to compete in the new League One campaign, which begins for them at Crawley on Saturday, although they face a serious points deduction. The minimum deduction a club have previously received for not agreeing a CVA is 15 points, taken from Leeds United before their 2007-08 campaign. However, the number could be more. Rotherham United, Bournemouth and Luton Town have been handed bigger punishments for similar incidents.
Coventry City Limited, the company in administration, holds the licence agreement with ACL to stage games at the Ricoh Arena. ACL, which is suing Northampton Town for allegedly "inducing" Coventry into breaking an agreement to stage matches with it, believes its offer of reduced rent is good enough to keep the Sky Blues at the Ricoh.
A spokesman said: "ACL remains committed to keeping the Sky Blues in Coventry and to using the Ricoh Arena to drive growth and create jobs. All of our actions are focused on achieving these objectives.
"We have been avoiding comment in the hope that discussions could take place to deliver these twin aims. We remain hopeful that such discussions can take place and ACL's directors will only make a decision on whether or not to sign the CVA when we have exhausted all such avenues."
However, Fisher believes the commercial risk of building a new stadium is "short-term pain for long-term gain", despite the club having sold little over 200 season tickets for the upcoming season. "An unreserved apology to the fans that we've had to go down this route," he said. "We think it's regrettable and the off-field has completely overshadowed the on-field, now we need to redress the balance. The economic damage incurred to this club is huge."