Coventry’s controversial owner Joy Seppala has apologised to Sky Blues fans ahead of another campaign playing outside the city, calling the move "a tragedy".
In her first-ever television interview, Seppala told Sky Sports News how the club’s second exile during her reign was out of her control – and said that agreeing the deal on offer to play at the Ricoh Arena next season would have signed away the club’s rights forever.
During the interview, Seppala said she remained hopeful the club would return to Coventry soon and explained how the company she heads up, SISU, have lost more than £50m since purchasing the club 12 years ago.
Coventry will ground-share with Birmingham at St Andrew’s this season after failing to agree a deal with Ricoh Arena owners Wasps to stay at the stadium, and Seppala said: It’s a tragedy.
We just want to be a team in our own stadium, generating our own revenue. But the club is playing somewhere else, so we apologise for that.
I feel for fans that have to make the trip to Birmingham. When we were choosing where to play, we had a lot of conversations with Mark Robins, who wanted to play on a high-class pitch.
It’s tragic. I apologise to fans for that, but there are circumstances that are out of our control.
Seppala says the deal Wasps wanted for Coventry to remain at the Ricoh Arena was unreasonable, explaining: We signed an agreement with Wasps that we would not litigate against them over the sale of the Ricoh. We agreed to terms.
But then when they came back, they wanted us to sign something that wasn’t feasible. Not just SISU, but the football club as well, underwriting damages and costs that they might incur.
It basically stripped the football club of its right to pursue anything. There was no chance we were going to jeopardise the football club, so it wouldn’t have the ability to exercise its own liberties.
Coventry’s ground-sharing arrangement with Birmingham is the second time they have been forced to play away from their own home during Seppala’s reign, with the Sky Blues playing at Northampton’s ground during the 2013/14 season.
The club has also suffered two relegations – and one promotion – during Seppala’s time, and she says SISU has lost more than £50m since buying the club.
Asked if she regrets getting involved with Coventry, Seppala said: I’d not be honest if I said I hadn’t thought that at times. There are days when it’s difficult but that’s life.
This has been the most professionally challenging experience and in many respects, it’s been the most rewarding.
Seppala says she has been personally targeted since buying Coventry, revealing: Our home was broken into. I wasn’t worried about me, more my family. My children at the time were very young.
I knew the anger from the supporters. We got a call from security saying someone is in your home. I went upstairs to check on the children. I had to think very carefully about how they got to school. That was the most difficult part of it.
I can tell you of hundreds and hundreds of abuse emails and letters calling me all sorts of names, incessant calls to the office and the various protests. It was very upsetting.
I’m a big girl. I can handle it. But you come after my children, my personal home? It’s a different story. It was very emotional, very upsetting.