BCFC: Strategic Committee A Lost Opportunity

Birmingham City announced on Friday the creation of a strategic committee whose job would be to advise the board on the short-term and long-term strategy of the club. This came at the request of Birmingham Sports Holdings, who had confirmed that the committee would be appointed in announcements made to the HKSE last year.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

I previously wrote about the appointment of the committee in this piece on the partial sale, where I talked a little bit about two of the people who were going to be on it.

It’s taken a little while to set up after the deal was done, and it does seem to be a startling coincidence that news of it is announced one week after I pushed BSH by email about it and two days after I chased the club.

Who is on the committee?

There are three people on the committee. Two of them are well known to Blues fans – Blues CEO Ren Xuandong and Honorary Vice-President Mike Wiseman.

The third member is a new name – Zhou Desheng.

Zhou is a Shanghai-based banker who is chief investment officer and founding partner of Zhushan Fund.

A search of Chinese company registries has produced 14 companies connected to Zhou, all of which are listed as being involved in investments, venture capital and wealth management.

Zhou has been appointed by Vong Pech following the purchase of a stake in the club by his investment vehicle Oriental Rainbow Investments (ORI). Despite the known links between Pech and the elusive Mr King, Wang Yaohui I have yet to link Zhou to Mr King.

As I’m unsure as to what expertise either the club or Vong Pech is hoping Zhou Desheng will provide, I have emailed Zhou asking him for further comment on his appointment.

What will the committee do?

Based upon the announcements made to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the idea of the strategic committee is that they will look at the “big picture” situation and offer the board their ideas and solutions to what the committee sees as a problem at the club.

To quote the announcement to shareholders prior to the EGM to approve the partial sale of the club:

BCFC shall establish a strategic committee (the “Strategic Committee”) which is principally responsible for formulating the strategies and plans for the overall operation and developments of BCFC, recommending such strategies and plans to the BCFC Board for approval and the implementation of the approved strategies and plan. The Strategic Committee shall consist of three members, two of which shall be nominated by the Purchaser [Vong Pech] and one of which shall be nominated by the Company. The Strategic Committee shall report to the BCFC Board directly. The major duties of the Strategic Committee shall include:

(a) to advise on the signing and/or transfer of players;
(b) to advise on the appointment and removal of team managers;
(c) to formulate sales, marketing and branding strategies;
(d) to make recommendations on sponsorship arrangement;
(e) to review the ticket pricing policy;
(f) to develop directions and plans for the youth players academy;
(g) to formulate corporate finance and fund-raising strategies; and
(h) to implement the matters referenced to in items (a) to (g) above.

The obvious thing that sticks out there considering the current league position of the club would be point b.

However, as it stands at this moment I am far from convinced that this committee will introduce any outside opinions into the continued employment of Aitor Karanka as Blues boss.

The biggest reason for my scepticism is the appointment of Ren to the Strategic Committee.

This isn’t based on my judgement of Ren’s decision making or character, but more because Ren is also on the board of the football club. I believe it will be almost impossible for Ren to make an objective viewpoint about the running of the club because of his position on the board, which will make it difficult for the committee to offer a properly holistic view.

It’s my opinion that this is a massive opportunity lost.

I’d like to have seen someone independent brought in to sit on the committee, to offer an outside viewpoint on what the club does to help guide and improve the board’s decision-making.

I accept that as the people who have put money into the club, ORI and BSH are the ones who have the right to call the shots on how that money is spent. However, I do not think that there is anything wrong with employing expertise to help ensure that the club is run as best as it possibly could – not just for us fans, but for the minority shareholders in BSH too.

Instead, what we are likely to have with this committee is essentially window-dressing, only announced to the fans and shareholders alike because someone made a nuisance of themselves about it.

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