BCFC Board: Will Hong Kong call time on Zola?

As announced to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, the board of directors of Birmingham International Holdings will meet on Monday February 27 to discuss and approve interim accounts for the company for the period ending December 31, 2017. While the announcement of a profit warning gives us some idea of what those accounts will look like, the bigger question is if the finances of the company will be the only thing discussed at board level.

Gianfranco Zola

Before I go any further I’m going to make sure I emphasise two things. Firstly, I’ve not seen the game on Saturday and I cannot comment on it or how the players played – so please don’t ask me to. Secondly, much of this piece is guesswork based on conversations I have with people around the club in Birmingham over the last couple of weeks – do not treat any of it as gospel.

Judging by the deluge of texts and messages I received on Saturday evening, there were more than a few people who a) were unhappy with the way Blues played and b) want Gianfranco Zola out. Based on the scoreline alone and the recent string of results it’s not hard to understand why.

There were also unconfirmed rumours that Panos Pavlakis didn’t emerge to watch the second half due to a lengthy meeting immediately initiated to discuss the future of Zola. As of Saturday night the word was no decision had been made.

As I see it, they currently have three options.

The first option is for them to do nothing – the default option. Leave Zola in place, see what happens and if need be make a decision further down the line. I can’t see too many people being happy with that.

The second option is to pull the trigger and immediately replace Zola with someone available to shore things up. In the short term this would make sense – while promotion is a bust the idea would be to ensure that relegation never enters the picture either.

However, I always wonder with this kind of managerial change if it’s kicking a problem into the long grass. I look across the expressway at the changes from McLeish to Lambert and from Lambert to Sherwood and while both had some initial success they didn’t arrest a downward slide into oblivion which even now is showing no sign of slowing down.

The third option is to pull the trigger and to replace Zola with an interim boss until the summer, just to tide us over until they can bring someone else in to resurrect “the project”. I will admit, I think is the most likely action if they do fire Zola – give the job to someone like Richard Beale or even Paul Robinson with the remit of getting enough points to keep us where we are and to take us into the summer when there can be proper overhaul.

I can already see people agape in shock – Robinson is a player who divides fans after all. I’m not one of his greatest fans myself, but what I would agree with is that he is a strong character who I think the players might respond to enough to see us through. Likewise, Richard Beale commands respect within the training ground and it’s a possible. However, I’m mindful that we’ve tried this one before with Malcolm Crosbie and Richard Beale, and the sole result was an 8-0 home humiliation to Bournemouth. I don’t want to see that again.

The only thing I can be sure of in all this is that Paul Suen, TTA and the rest of the BIH board won’t be listening to what we have to say or think. They will do what they think is right for the club – as they did when they binned Gary Rowett. As I said back then, that was a ballsy decision – and with the benefit of hindsight it appears that the appointment of Zola has massively backfired.

Will they make another big decision now?

I have no idea for certain, but if I’m honest, I think they have to – if from a commercial perspective as much as a playing one. While the crowd was over 20k for the QPR game having kids for a quid in the half-term holiday no doubt helped that – I wonder how the crowds will be affected if Blues continue to stagnate and worse?

Likewise, it’s a statement of fact that during the latter days of Clark’s tenure commercial revenues were down – the appointment of Rowett didn’t just put points on the board; it also helped get more fans through the turnstiles and more money in from commercial partners.

These increases in revenues don’t make a great deal of money for the owners in the bigger picture, but what they can do is to help improve self-sufficiency within the club so that it is less reliant on cash influxes from Paul Suen/TTA. If there is a bigger plan for Mr Suen in the long run (and I think judging by his past history as an investor there has to be) then it’s important that he can build and diversify revenues into the club.

Paul Suen won’t be in the board meeting as he’s not on the board. However, I have no doubt he’ll have issued some form of instruction – and while the facts and figures of the group are discussed I have no doubt the figures in relation to the ongoing employment of Gianfranco Zola will also come up.

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