Port Vale co-owner Norman Smurthwaite has offered his services to hometown club Coventry City as they seek to resolve their stadium rent row.
I would happily offer my services as a third party mediator. They need someone to bring the two sides together and to negotiate…
The League One side could be forced to move away from the Ricoh Arena as they are disputing a £400,000 annual rent demand from the stadium owners Arena Coventry Ltd (ACL).
ACL claim that the Sky Blues owe £1.1m in rent arrears and have given them until Boxing Day to pay up – or face a winding-up petition.
But Coventry, who claim the rent is too high, want to negotiate a new agreement. The football club have indicated that they are considering alternative venues for the team to play at if an agreement cannot be reached.
Smurthwaite, who along with fellow businessman Paul Wildes took over Port Vale earlier this season is now offering his services as a mediator in a bid to resolve the dispute.
Smurthwaite, who was born in Coventry told the Coventry Telegraph: “If I had known Coventry were looking seriously I might have looked into it, but I didn’t even know until recently that they hadn’t been paying their rent.
“Given the full use of the stadium and the food and beverage then that’s a different proposition, but I understand they haven’t got that.
“I would happily offer my services as a third party mediator. They need someone to bring the two sides together and to negotiate. And that way, at the end of it, I’d be the bad guy who could step away and everyone saves face.
“I can’t believe the Council could even contemplate driving Coventry City out of their own ground because I think the repercussions for the Council would be quite unpleasant.
“I don’t believe Coventry will leave the Ricoh Arena. There have been lots of city councils, including Stoke On Trent, who have had to put their hand in their pocket and taken some collective action to ensure a community based business/football club like Coventry continues to exist. The Council have got as much as an obligation to do something as the club itself.
“Someone will have to make a commercial decision. It will cost the City of Coventry but the implications if they don’t support the biggest icon in the city it will cost the council for a long time to come.
“It would become a park and ride car park, the best in the country. What a waste!”