BCFC: Preparation or Lack Thereof

It’s now less than 48 hours until Birmingham City play Derby County and Blues season ticket holders still don’t know if they actually have a ticket for the game or not. Although we’ve had confirmation from the club that the works for the upper Tilton stand have been verbally signed off, it appears that a paperwork issue is now holding up the final sign-off of the safety certificate to open that part of the stand.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

It’s a horrific situation for the club to be in. With confirmation the final deadline for the club to confirm one way or the other will be 5pm today, the amount of time the club has to prepare for either eventuality is seemingly minimal.

I don’t think it’s just about allocation of tickets either. The required police presence (and attendant bill) will differ depending on what parts of the ground are open, as will the number of stewarding, ticketing and catering staff. It has all the chances of being a logistical nightmare for the club.

Without access to all data, it’s impossible to be 100% certain about why the inspection was scheduled so late, or that further information was required.

However, I can’t help but think a major part of the problem the club has is a lack of preparation.

The club confirmed in a communication posted on bcfc.com on August 11 that the aim was to get the upper Tilton and Kop stands ready for Derby game on Friday 10 September. The club were sensible enough to note at that time that previous timeframes had not been met and that there was a possibility that the stands wouldn’t be ready for the Derby game either.

Now, again I don’t fully know how things work inside the club, but I can’t understand why it appears contingency plans were not made for the possibility that stands were not opened.

For example, I don’t know much about safety inspections but it seems obvious there would need to be a sign off by the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) before the stands could be opened.

Aware of my ignorance and limitations, I can tell you if I was responsible for sorting out the stands I’d have been onto the SAG to the point of annoyance to ensure that I met every detail, crossed every t and dotted every i so that the inspection went smoothly and the certificate was signed off.

While I know some are blaming the council for being incompetent about paperwork (and I’ll be honest, I can understand why), I think there is no excuse for not being ready for every possible eventuality given there was so long to get it sorted.

Likewise, having seen the absolute mess that was the ballot for the Stoke and Bournemouth games, I’d have done everything possible to have the ticket office prepared for the possibility of another one being needed.

Now, again without intimate knowledge of the systems it’s impossible to know what could have been done; however if there was any way it was possible to run the processes for ballots and/or relocation in advance in case they were needed, I’d have done it.

As it stands it could be a very messy Thursday and Friday for those staff with lots more overtime needed.

From the outside, it seems that this whole situation from the initial findings to now has been nothing but a farce as far as the club are concerned.

I know some might blame former CEO Ren Xuandong for this but after his departure in May one would think that there would have been an assessment of what he had done and any issues that needed rectifying being sorted immediately.

What worries me is the fear I always espoused in the past when people talked about a potential departure of Ren; namely that his replacement would be no better in the role.

Furthermore, during his reign as CEO Ren made several personnel changes in senior non-football roles at the club. There have to be question marks now over the efficacy of that personnel considering how the last few months have played out without a formal CEO at the helm.

Regardless of whether the upper Tilton stand is open for the Derby game or not, it’s imperative that lessons are learned by the club, and learned fast to prevent any more twists in this saga. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was right now; all that matters to me now is that the club prepare better for the next contingency when it inevitably happens.

Not doing so is going to further waste all the goodwill generated by recent results and signings – and that doesn’t do anyone any good.