The Football League is set to agree in principle for Coventry City to play their home matches at Northampton Town next season, after a dramatic and traumatic day in City's recent history of decline.
The league made no public statement after its board discussed the proposal by Coventry's prospective new owner, the London-based venture-capital fund Sisu, to take the club 30 or so miles away for three years. However, league rules do not prevent a temporary move to another town and there is the precedent of Rotherham United, who played at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium while building a new ground in their town.
Sisu says it intends to do similar and argues it has reached this point by necessity, after negotiations with ACL, owner of the Ricoh Arena, over the rent to be paid and a proposal for the club effectively to buy the stadium, broke down. The arena is owned half each by Coventry City council and the Alan Edward Higgs charity, set up by a family of wealthy long-standing supporters; they argue Sisu has walked away from deals at advanced stages of agreement.
Polls of City supporters have found overwhelming majorities against any move by the club, who were in the Premier League as recently as 2001. "We are going to fight this every step of the way," said Moz Baker, spokesman for the Sky Blue Supporters Trust, which organised a protest. "A move away from Coventry will have a hugely detrimental effect on the club."
Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen, ACL director and clerk to the Higgs charity, said ACL absolutely wants the club to remain at the Ricoh, is prepared to negotiate, and described Sisu as behaving "cruelly" towards the supporters.
In January Sisu stopped paying the £1.3m-a-year rent and fees at the Ricoh and, having spent around £30m on the club since it bought it in 2008, put it into administration in March. The administrator, Paul Appleton, last week agreed a sale of the club's assets to Otium Entertainment Group, another Sisu company. That deal is subject to a company voluntary arrangement being agreed, which ACL, the only creditor apart from Sisu-connected companies, may block. The league will also have to approve any new arrangements, including this proposed ground move. "Discussions concerning the groundshare are ongoing," a Sisu spokesperson said. "We hope to make an announcement soon."