BCFC: The Disconnect

With less than a week left in the transfer window, it’s safe to say the mood around Birmingham City fans online is antsy. Blues are yet to bring in a player having released four, sold one and loaned out one and with the team still languishing in the relegation places it’s easy to understand why people are worried.

Birmingham City FC

Yesterday’s story on BCFC.com can’t have helped matters much.

“We’ve found it difficult to get a little bit of clarity on things and how things are going to be moving forwards.

“There are still things at the Football Club that I’m getting used to.

While Steve Cotterill seemed at pains to be talking about how he would be working up until the end of the window to secure signatures, the quote about getting used to things at the football club is a bit concerning for me – especially when I think what I’ve already said about the “axis of incompetence” of Ren Xuandong, Jeff Vetere and Darren Dein before.

If anything, I think it’s further proof of something that has become more apparent to me in recent months at the club – the disconnect between the three different power bases that shape the way the club is run day to day and long term.

At the bottom of the pile are the club staff. These are the people who do the day to day running of the club, and who are consequently the closest to what’s actually going on.

Despite the upheaval we’ve seen at the club over the last few years these names have remained remarkably consistent and I’ve often thought that without people like Julia Shelton, Roger Lloyd and Jo Allsopp the club would be in so much more of a mess than it has been.

Then there are the staff in Hong Kong who look after the day to day running of Birmingham Sports Holdings.

I don’t know as much about these people other than that they are the people who ensure the holding company meets the regulations set by the stock exchange of Hong Kong so that the club doesn’t fall into the same issues it did under the previous BIH board.

Finally, there is the inner circle. This is where the true power in running the club lies, as this group consists of the owners and people who work directly for them, such as the aforementioned Ren and Dein along with BSH chairman Zhao Wenqing.

As an outsider, I’m not privy to everything that goes on at the club and I can only comment on what I’ve seen and heard – but it seems almost obvious to me that there is a breakdown in communication between these three groups.

A good example is FFP.

“We’re called Trillion Trophy Asia, I hope we’ve got a trillion pounds as well but certainly we need to follow the rules of football in this country in every respect.

While Ren paid lip service to FFP in his (as yet only) interview with the press on the arrival of Steve Cotterill, I don’t think the inner circle were too bothered by what FFP meant and how it affected the club – like Carson I think they wanted to bring in players and didn’t quite understand that there are ramifications to doing this.

Obviously, the club staff will have known better and I don’t doubt that they will have tried to tell people within the inner circle that rules have to be followed. I wrote about FFP in the summer and I was pretty sure at the time Blues were close-ish to the line then; the financial results that followed only served to confirm that.

Equally I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some alarm from the rank and file in Hong Kong as to the direction of the club and questions asked about what was happening. While their focus has to be on the holding company, BCFC represent a large slice of that company’s profits and it makes sense to try to keep a rein on things.

Now this is complete speculation, but I wonder if the League have got involved too. My reasoning is thus: Cotterill seemed adamant he was close to two players before the start of the window and now four weeks later there is nothing.

When a well-known accountancy blogger – the Swiss Ramble – comes out and publishes just how damning the accounts are for Blues would it not make sense for the league to have a quiet word with the club and say “£49.5mil to keep the club running over the next 18 months? WTF?”

If one considers that the maximum allowed deviation from a FFP break even result is £39mil over three years, that figure above is just frightening and I can’t help but think the League might have had a quiet word in the club’s ear – and this is what has caused the brakes to be applied to Blues’ spending.

For the club to run successfully, it requires all hands to pull together and to work in harmony. I appreciate this isn’t the way things are done in China – in the east the boss makes the decisions based on what he thinks and the people beneath him are there to be seemingly ignored. This has to change – otherwise we’re truly in for interesting times.

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