Coventry City have been ground sharing at St Andrews Stadium, the home of Midlands rivals Birmingham City since the beginning of the 19/20 season. The Sky Blues were effectively made homeless from their former ground the Ricoh Arena in 2019, after an ongoing dispute between the Ricoh Arena’s owners Wasps and Coventry City’s owners SISU over the sale of the stadium and constant court battles.
The move from Coventry to Birmingham has had a significant effect on match attendances and has divided the fanbase further. However, Coventry are argued to have played their best season of football at St Andrews with fans labelling the ground as ‘The Fortress,’ having only lost one league match all season in their new home.
With Coventry City now crowned Champions of League One and therefore promoted to the Championship, what will this mean for their ground sharing situation at St Andrews?
The promotion of Coventry City, however, will now mean that the Sky Blues and Blues will be playing in the same league, raising questions on safety and accessibility for the next season.
A normal Saturday would see the possibility of 6 fan-bases pass through Birmingham City Centre and Grand Central Station, including Coventry and Aston Villa fans playing at home on the same weekends, who have an undeniable history of rivalry.
This season Coventry played Birmingham City in the FA Cup Fourth Round. The unprecedented draw was soon labelled ‘The Tenant’s Vs The Landlords’ and was a highly anticipated fixture. Coventry were the ‘home’ team in terms of the dressing rooms and stand allocation but the ground was an even split with a total attendance of 21,193 on the day.
West Midlands Police had classified the unique fixture as Category C, based on the Strategic Intelligence matrix (Strati), which meant there was a ‘high risk of disorder’. This rating was one below the highest level and therefore led to an increase of policing presence in and out of the ground and within the City centre, as both fans were allocated specific pubs to avoid any possible altercations.
The day however did not go without its incidents, with some taking to social media calling the aftermath ‘chaos’ and multiple arrests being made. It was reported that one Coventry fan was severely assaulted before kick off, leaving the youth with a fractured skull.
This negative mood was not echoed throughout the whole clash, with light hearted chanting being bounced from end to end during the game, including the Blues fans singing “you’re sat in my seat!”
The game finished 0-0 and Blues then took back control of their ground for the replay, where after extra time and penalties, Coventry bowed out of the cup losing 4-2 on penalties.
Coventry were relegated from the Championship in 2012 and subsequently from League 1 in 2017, have bounced back from the brink under Sky Blues manager Mark Robins and are proving that off-pitch matters shouldn’t effect on-pitch performances.
It is unclear where Coventry will be playing at the beginning of the next season but it would take a huge turnaround in negotiations between Coventry and Rugby Union side Wasps to see the Sky Blues back in their hometown at the Ricoh Arena.
In the meantime, Birmingham City and Coventry City ground sharing in the Championship looks like the most likely solution right now.