I mentioned the appointment of Ren Xuandong a short while ago, and in the time since I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about who he is, and what he brings to Birmingham City FC.
It’s a little bit scary saying this, but right now I can’t help but feel positive about his appointment and what it means for the club.
For example, I know that many people have talked about a lack of football knowledge around TTA – especially around the time of the sacking of Gary Rowett.
While I can understand the reasoning at the time for removing Rowett, I think I can agree with the sentiment that football isn’t like any other business and that some things that happen in football have to be accepted when they wouldn’t be normally in business.
Maybe things would have been better at that time if someone intimately involved in football could have smoothed the waters between both parties.
Ren has undoubtedly got the connections in football, that much has to be said.
You don’t have to look hard to find images of Ren with Luis Figo at the Figo Academies in China. Clearly he has some sway in the football community and knows some people.
He clearly has some sort of business acumen too.
We hear talk of how companies are going to leverage owning a club to break the Chinese market – for example, West Bromwich Albion’s owner Guochuan Lai has talked about building “soccer-towns” across China. I have to admit, I can’t see it happening.
Ren’s company WinningLeague has been busy building academies across China – with centres in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Dalian, and Ordos already. He has said that it’s a long term project – first to offer training to kids, and then to expand on that.
His business isn’t just academies though. WinningLeague also look after indoor soccer centres across the country and are involved in event organisation. Could it be that Ren is bringing all of this knowledge to the table to help build Blues from the inside?
However, I think it’s too early to say that this is a great thing to happen to the club.
The chief question in my mind remains that I’m not sure who is actually calling the shots.
The chairman of the BSH is Zhao Wenqing – and while he is also on the BCFC board and has been involved with the administration of the club I do not believe he is the man with the money.
The rumours of some shadowy Chinese billionaire behind Ren and Edward Zheng Gannan are pretty strong; I’ve heard it from three or four different sources now. The word is he will be the next owner after Paul Suen – but no one knows (or admits to knowing) who it is and I’m no fan of secrecy.
I’m mindful that Chinese “billionaires” come in many different shapes and guises – you only have to look at the aforementioned Lai, Jeff Shi at Wolves and Tony Xia across the expressway.
As critical of Panos as I was, he was somewhat visible. He may have gone into hiding a little during the Zola period, but people knew who he was. Even if we don’t see who is in the shadows, I think it’s important for Blues that directors like Ren Xuandong and Edward Zheng step out into the limelight.
Fans are feeling positive, the signings are coming in and Harry Redknapp is saying and doing the right things. This could be a very successful season for Blues – now could be the right time to introduce the people who are making it happen.