BSH: The Australian Connection

Mystery has swirled around the ownership of Western Melbourne Group since the consortium were confirmed as the 11th team to play in the Australian A-League from next season. Today, I can reveal that Birmingham Sports Holdings are the financial backers for the project.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange

As recently as December 14 bid team member and Wyndham City Project Lead Kate Roffey declined to confirm who the backers of the bid was, only to confirm that they were “Australian-based investors”.

However, documentation obtained by this website shows that fellow bid team members Steve Horvat and Lou Sticca were part of a three-man advisory team to “Australian Sports Ventures” (ASV) who were fronting the project.

ASV Advisory Team

That same documentation names the backers as the Hong Kong parent company of Birmingham City, BSH.

The third man on the advisory team is named as Melbourne resident Zac Karlaftis, who is still listed on his LinkedIn page as Business Development Director for BSH despite not being on the payroll since December 2017.

Regular readers of this site will recognise Karlaftis’ name as also being connected to Wang Yaohui, aka Mr King.

Documents obtained from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows that Australian Sports Ventures lists Karlaftis as the sole director of the company.

Karlaftis is also one of two shareholders in the company along with British Virgin Islands company Power Super Ltd.

However, the documentation also shows that until January 20, 2018 ASV listed Birmingham Sports Holdings Chairman Zhao Wenqing and Gao Lei as directors.

Gao is another known associate of Mr King.

Previous shareholders in the company have included Hong Kong based Verte Group Ltd, a company owned by Karlaftis and Gao on a 50-50 basis.

Western Melbourne Group have declined to talk about the level of the franchise fee paid to the FFA to secure their place in next season’s A-League despite rumours of a AUD19million payment (about £10million).

There is no public confirmation of how much money ASV have put into the project or the level of control they exert; however I understand from contacts in Hong Kong that Birmingham Sports Holdings have indeed been involved in funding.

Unfortunately, the same contacts have also added that BSH are not funding the project any further, which would tie up with rumours of similar on Twitter.

What does this mean for Blues?

On the surface, this is the kind of deal I’d normally be massively on board with.

Manchester City have proven that it’s possible to build a group of clubs under one banner, and while BSH do not have the same sort of money as the Abu Dhabi United Group do it makes sense that BSH widens their revenue streams.

It’s not an idea that’s come out of thin air either; Blues have built links with Spanish club UE Cornella and I understand Sticca has been previously interested in holding a position at Blues akin to the one Txiki Beigiristain holds at Manchester City.

Likewise, I know from previous contacts in Australia that this is at least the third time Karlaftis has tried to arrange investment in an Australian club by BSH.

What concerns me however is the knowledge that Karlaftis is doing this despite no longer officially being on the payroll at BSH, along with the secrecy surrounding the whole deal.

The fact that there has been no announcements to the HKSE concerning BSH’s involvement with the deal is not great although it doesn’t look like there is a clear connection between BSH and ASV any more.

With so many associates of Wang Yaohui surrounding the deal I think the question has to be asked if this was more of a deal for Mr King than Blues.

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