BCFC: Is It Worth It Any More?

Birmingham City crashed out of the FA Cup with barely a whimper on Saturday, losing 1-0 to League One side Plymouth Argyle. The final result might say that the Pilgrims won after extra time but the sad fact is a 4-0 scoreline in 90 minutes would not have flattered them. Yet the worst part of it all seems to be the number of Blues fans (including myself) who were just resigned to defeat and numb to the pain.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

In the interview afterwards with Blues TV, Lee Bowyer looked a beaten man, bewildered by what he had just seen. He bemoaned the lack of quality in the team and pointed out that the squad he had picked was pretty much all he had to choose from – and that he needs more.

While the loan signing of Taylor Richards and proposed moves for Alfie Mawson and Amad Diallo on loan signify some effort to improve things, the fact that Blues cannot compete on transfer fees or wages to sign Riley McGree after his loan spell at the club should confirm what we’ve all known for some time – there is no money.

Indeed, the deal for Diallo collapsed almost as quickly as it was rumoured while it’s apparent that Mawson would only come in if Harlee Dean exits the club – and coat giveaway aside, that doesn’t appear to be happening at any speed.

This lack of cashflow means the room Bowyer has to manoeuvre is tiny – and that there is almost zero room for error in recruitment this window.

Aren’t the owners embarrassed by how the club is doing?

I was asked during the match if I thought that the owners would be embarrassed while watching the game by what was happening. After all, we’ve been told that “face” is a big thing in Chinese culture and it’s not a great look for the club surrendering in such abject fashion on TV outside the UK.

The problem with this question is that it assumes that the owners were watching the game. Without a fly on the wall camera following their lives I can’t state anything for a fact; however, I’m fairly confident in my opinion that the owners more than likely weren’t watching and potentially might have been not even aware that Blues were playing.

As much as Blues means to us, for any of Paul Suen Cho Hung, Vong Pech or even the elusive Mr King aka Wang Yaohui, Blues are small potatoes. All three are involved in much bigger things, and I can’t help but wonder that Blues is now the toy that they’re bored with.

It’s not like the Cambodian newspapers carry reports about Blues to let everyone in Phnom Penh know what a shitty job Vong Pech is doing. In brutal honesty, from my research of the Khmer press the only news that is published by the Cambodian press about the club is stuff websites steal from here.

Likewise, I can tell you from my own experiences while in Hong Kong, the club feels as abstract there as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange does here in Birmingham.

If they’re bored with it, why won’t they sell?

This is a hard question to answer, because logically it seems that there is no sense in them holding onto the club. If they’re bored of it, why not just move it on to someone who wants it?

Forgetting the complexities of the HKSE listing etc, the impression I get is that the club isn’t enough of a problem right now for the owners to focus on it.

For example, a few weeks ago I mentioned the story I’d heard from sources in Cambodia of Vong Pech having to cough up a piece of land allegedly worth half a billion US dollars, to cover Wang Yaohui’s huge gambling losses. That says to me that right both Vong Pech and Wang Yaohui have bigger fish to fry than Blues; something I’m hoping to touch upon further in the next couple of weeks.

If selling Blues requires effort they don’t want to put in, and is not haemorrhaging cash as it was in the past, then it’s something that can be left for now – especially as there is always the miracle chance that the club could do something positive enabling them to improve their return on investment.

Where does that leave Blues fans?

Right now, there seems to be a lot of apathy, a lot of frustration, and a lot of people thinking of walking away. I understand all that; I’ve felt it myself often and even now writing this I’m wondering just how much I’m pissing in the wind.

As I see it, we have two choices.

On the one hand, we can accept that we can’t do anything, and see if things crumble further. Some might hope for relegation or administration, thinking that short term pain might result in longer term gain – but of course there would be no guarantee of that. Some might find a better thing to spend their time, money and energy on.

On the other hand, we can try to do something. This is the camp I always find myself in; partly because I have inherited my father’s legendary stubbornness, and partly because I have to be able to say to myself I tried.

The big problem of course is what that something is. The only thing I can see we can do as fans in the main is to make the owners care enough to want to sell the club.

For example – the press in the UK barely covers us, because let’s be honest, no one cares about another football club going under. The amount of detail involved is horrific, and as such it’s a lot of effort to write about Blues with no return on investment – best for the press to leave it to the nerds like me.

In my head that means the problem to solve is to make Blues an important and interesting enough subject for the press to cover – and maybe hope it gets back to the people who it would embarrass.

Similarly, the authorities don’t seem that bothered by what’s going on with the club’s ownership. The EFL have been shown up to be fairly ineffectual in recent years and while things are marginally getting better, in my experience they don’t have any time to communicate directly with fans on specific questions.

Thus the problem there to be solved is to force the EFL to act. I actually think many clubs have issues with the EFL and I suspect with some collaboration and organisation pressure could be brought to bear.

All of that takes time and effort. All of it takes people to grasp the mettle and do something.

We all have to ask ourselves if it’s worth it.