Welcome back to the Ricoh Arena, Coventry!

It’s official. Coventry City are heading home.

Simon Stacpoole: A Coventry fan stands outside Sixfields Stadium holding a sign protesting against Coventry's move away from the Ricoh Arena.
Simon Stacpoole: A Coventry fan stands outside Sixfields Stadium holding a sign protesting against Coventry’s move away from the Ricoh Arena.

After almost two years spent on the road playing at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium following a rent dispute, the Sky Blues are all set to return to the Ricoh Arena. Their first game back at the venue is penned in for September 5 against Gillingham.

Patrick McCann: Coventry City supporters react after Reading's Leroy Lita's penalty was saved by Reading's Stephen Bywater.
Patrick McCann: Coventry City supporters react after Reading’s Leroy Lita’s penalty was saved by Reading’s Stephen Bywater.

It’s some welcome news for the club’s fans who have been protesting and campaigning for a resolution to the drama that saw their team relocated, sent into administration, docked 10 points and effectively relegated to League One.

For some, Ricoh Arena almost seems a bit too good for third tier football. Given its design, facilities and shape goes, the arena is one of the most unique stadiums in the Football League, if not the entire pyramid of English football.

Flight Images: Aerial view of the Ricoh Arena.
Flight Images: Aerial view of the Ricoh Arena.

Just look at it. Built by construction company Laing O’Rourke in 2005, who were also behind the building of the Millennium Stadium, the arena is a completely enclosed 32,500 capacity stadium with single tier stands on its north, east and south sides. The larger west side of the arena features a small number of overhanging seats and hospitality boxes, with other facilities housed in an expanded, triangular section that appears to protrude out from the stadium, almost like a connected but separate structure.

Steve Bardens: Wasps win a lineout against Northampton Saints at the Ricoh Arena.
Steve Bardens: Wasps win a lineout against Northampton Saints at the Ricoh Arena.

The venue is well-regarded by fans for its excellent acoustics, even if Coventry’s troubles in recent years have often meant that the away section have made better use of the Ricoh’s noise-making potential than the home support.

Patrick McCann: Coventry City defender Robert Page celebrates his late equalising goal against Reading.
Patrick McCann: Coventry City defender Robert Page celebrates his late equalising goal against Reading.

Yet that perennial annoyance of the English football fan is present however—the running track—which adds a bit of distance between the stands and the action around the pitch. Ah well, you can’t have it all.

Paul Roberts: General view of the Ricoh Arena.
Paul Roberts: General view of the Ricoh Arena.

The stadium’s humpback west stand is probably its most recognisable feature, which houses a large exhibition hall, a leisure club and a hotel. When not hosting football or sports events, the Ricoh is usually being taken over by some huge travelling music act like Bruce Springsteen or Coldplay, or playing host to a festival of some sort. If you’re up for a gamble, the arena can even boast an underground casino beneath the pitch!

Paul Roberts: The Ricoh Arena.
Paul Roberts: The Ricoh Arena.

Besides hosting Coventry City and the odd few England games, the Ricoh was also used as a venue by the London 2012 Olympics, during which it was known as the City of Coventry Stadium due to a ban on commercial names at the games, hosting matches in the women’s football tournament. Canada won their bronze medal against France on its hallowed turf.

Glyn Thomas: Empty seats at the Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City.
Glyn Thomas: Empty seats at the Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City.

A year later, tennis came to the Ricoh when Great Britain’s 2013 Davis Cup tie against Russia was held in the west stand’s exhibition hall, which the host nation won.

Other sporting events that have visited the venue include a semi-final of Rugby Union’s Heineken Cup in 2007 between Northampton Saints and London Wasps. The following season, Wasps returned to face Munster. Also in 2007, the Ricoh hosted its first American Foot fixture as Coventry Cassidy Jets beat champions London Olympians.

Glyn Thomas: Fans arrive at the Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City.
Glyn Thomas: Fans arrive at the Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City.

Now Coventry City fans can look forward to getting back to normality in the familiar surroundings of their club’s fancy, modern home, with dreams of taking the club and its stadium back to the level  of football they believe both deserve.

Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of creative, retro, vintage and current sports photography. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com.

Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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