BCFC: Lame Duck Manager

Blues limped to their sixth draw in eight league games at St Andrew’s on Saturday against Hull City. A woeful first half saw Blues 2-0 down in quick order, and even though Gary Gardner and Dan Crowley managed to pull Blues level within 15 minutes of the restart it took a late Gardner header for Blues to snatch a point.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

While the result ensures Blues remain in 16th place, seven points clear of the drop zone it’s fairly obvious from reading message boards and social media that fans are not thrilled with the result.

This isn’t helped by the lack of information about who will follow Pep Clotet into the manager / head coach hot seat next season.

Throw in a soupçon of worry about what players will be in the squad next year and the mixture is right for a fair amount of angst from supporters.

Lame Duck Manager

In American politics, a President is called a “Lame Duck President” in the two months between the election of a new President and the inauguration. In that time the outgoing President is still in charge, but his actual power wanes as there is a transition to the new administration.

Right now, Pep Clotet is a “Lame Duck Manager”.

He might still be in charge, but we all know that he will be leaving before the end of July and as such he can’t be involved in any long-term planning.

Blues are playing out the season with what will hopefully be a series of dead rubbers as the relegation picture comes into focus beneath them.

Yet there seems no point in any tactical experiments from the management team as they won’t be able to do anything with the results.

Likewise, whether it’s because of players choosing to leave as their contracts aren’t being renewed, or typical EFL woolliness about the eligibility of returning loan players, Clotet has been reduced to a paper-thin squad.

While players such as Nico Gordon will benefit by getting the chance to make their league debut, one wonders if that is more of a benefit to Kristjaan Speakman’s bonus than the team itself.

All the evidence would point to the board ensuring this “lame duck” period is as short as possible.

However, it’s not as easy as that.

Difficult Decisions

I don’t think I’m using one ounce of hyperbole when I say that the decision regarding who will be the next manager / head coach of Birmingham City is probably the most important one that club CEO Ren Xuandong and Birmingham Sports Holdings Chairman Zhao Wenqing will make in their BCFC careers.

To me it feels as if football is at a crossroads financially; the effect of the coronavirus outbreak will have hit clubs hard and only the ones who make the right decisions now will be the ones who are successful in the next few years.

Finances are going to be massively impacted due to a lack of ticket revenue, lower commercial revenue and potentially even lower broadcast revenue.

This means that clubs are going to have to be more wary about spending on transfer fees and wages, making smarter decisions on recruitment and sales.

I want to make this clear – I’m not talking about FFP here.

Around one quarter of Blues’ total revenue comes from match receipts – a shade over £5million for the 2018/19 season (the latest season we have accounts for)

Blues have had to potentially offer refunds for 21% of fixtures on season tickets this season and have taken no money for next season.

Even if season ticket revenue only makes up half of the match receipt revenue (and I suspect it’s more), then that’s up to £500K that the club potentially have to set aside for refunds, and a further £2.5million that they aren’t yet receiving in cash this summer.

There will also be uncertainty over commercial revenue this summer such as the renewal of sponsorships.

During the lockdown, the ground hasn’t been open for any events for more than three months, impacting the £10million or so in commercial revenue the club takes each season.

What all this adds up to is the absolute certainty that Blues cannot afford to make another management mistake with attendant financial payoff.

As much as I agree that the club needs to hire a manager who can improve on the way club plays and get results, it’s also imperative that they hire someone who is going to be able to handle the way the club is run.

In short terms, that means someone who can work with Ren – even if he does turn up to the training ground in full kit wanting a kick about.

I don’t think that means it has to be a “yes” man; rather someone who has the right kind of personality and chemistry with Ren to be able to say “no” and not cause an argument.

As much as this lame duck period is hurting us to watch right now, I think it’s important to allow it to go on for as long as they need to find the right person to come in.

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