(Recasts with points deduction)
LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Coventry City have been given a 10-point deduction but handed a lifeline after the Football League allowed them to start the League One season, the English third tier club said on Friday.
The 1987 FA Cup winners, who spent an unbroken 34 years in the top flight from 1967 until 2001, have been in administration since March following a bitter row with Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), the owners of their home ground the Ricoh Arena.
ACL rejected proposals which would have brought the club out of administration on Friday and forced the Midlands outfit to put their current parent company, Coventry City FC Ltd, into liquidation.
The Football League, however, have transferred the club’s share in the competition to the administrators’ preferred bidders, the Otium Entertainment Group, allowing the club to begin their new campaign away to Crawley Town on Saturday.
“The Board has agreed to transfer the Club’s share on the basis that it accepts a 10 point deduction for the 2013/14 season,” the Football League said in a statement.
“This decision will enable Coventry City to continue its membership of The Football League, despite the failure of its CVA…”
The increasingly bitter row between the club’s owners and ACL means they have decided to play their home matches for the next three seasons at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium, about 36 miles (55kms) south-east of the city.
That decision was also ratified by the Football League on Friday.
“We know that this has been an extremely difficult summer for our supporters and we are truly sorry that all of the attention has been off the field rather than on it,” chief executive Tim Fisher said on the club website (www.ccfc.co.uk).
“There has been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the club’s future but this decision by the Football League means we now have certainty and the club’s future is secured.
“We can now get on and put our future plans into action which means building and owning our own stadium in the Coventry area.”
Only 215 Coventry fans have bought season tickets for the new season.
Football League chairman Greg Clarke said: “Once again, it is a source of immense frustration to everyone involved that the two parties in this dispute have failed to reach any agreement. The Board is dismayed at the level of intransigence being shown.
“Nonetheless, The League will continue with its efforts to get the two parties to enter into meaningful negotiations, so that Coventry City can return to Coventry at the earliest opportunity.
“The Board’s decision means that these attempts can now be conducted against a backdrop of Coventry City as a continuing member of The Football League, rather than it having to bring an end to the Club’s 94 years in league football.” (Reporting by Mike Collett and Toby Davis, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)