BCFC: Purgatory

There’s an old cliché that a week is a long time in football. The last three weeks must have felt like an eternity for some Blues fans as days continue to tick by without any official confirmation on the status of the stadium repairs, Lee Bowyer or the rumoured takeover. With June almost upon us the club remains in stasis waiting for movement from anywhere.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

I’m going to be honest here and confess that the reason I’ve not written a blog post for a fortnight is because I’m utterly bored of it all.

From the dickswinging and sniping from some people to the gnashing of teeth and wailing from others, it’s all been very wearing and for the sake of my own sanity I’ve tried my hardest to stay away from it all.

However, having asked for some thoughts on social media about what people want to read, I thought it was worth recapping on some things if only to try to help people understand why we’re all in purgatory right now.

Lack of Communication

The biggest gripe I’ve seen out there has been this feeling of a lack of communication from the club – particularly regarding the takeover.

There are many fans on social media whose innate cynicism based on their past experiences with Blues has led them to believe that this whole takeover thing is a ploy to sell season tickets; and that the lack of communication from the club is proof positive that there is no takeover.

I understand why people feel this way; fans forums were postponed and cancelled in May and the lack of anything official doesn’t help those who are naturally sceptical.

However, in this case the club are in a pickle because they can’t say anything about a takeover; not at least until it’s been announced by Birmingham Sports Holdings to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

As I’ve said before, BSH have a legal obligation to confirm things to their shareholders first lest they create a “false market” in their shares.

If anyone from the club says something that they shouldn’t, then they will potentially find themselves in the same trouble former CEO Ren Xuandong did when he gave out lots of sensitive financial information in an interview with Richard Wilford on Radio WM.

There is an argument that BSH should have made a clarifying announcement anyway following reports from Neil Moxley and John Percy in the national press here of a takeover; an argument I made to BSH by email last month.

Having been fobbed off by BSH I forwarded my concerns and their reply to the HKSE to ask them what their thoughts were. I was notified that they opened an investigation into the matter but having spoken to BSH it appears that they are satisfied by BSH’s reasons for not making an announcement yet.

My best guess on this is that despite John Percy reporting that the Keith Harris bid had “exclusivity” that actually might not have been the case. It wouldn’t surprise me if BSH had told the HKSE that they didn’t want to make an announcement while negotiations were still ongoing and maybe mess them up – an argument I’m willing to accept.

The upshot of all this is we’re going to have to be patient for a while longer.

The Stadium

The other elephant in the room during all this is the repairs to St Andrew’s. We’ve heard no further since the last monthly update where the club said they were awaiting some test results and I suspect we won’t hear much further for a while yet.

Assuming that takeover talks are advanced, I would expect that neither BSH nor the bidders would be wanting to start repairs right now.

It’s easily understandable that BSH wouldn’t want to start repairs now on something that they may sell soon – especially if money is tight.

If I was negotiating to buy the club, I wouldn’t want them to touch the repairs either. I can only speak for myself, but I’d be very much inclined to ensure that the repairs were done properly – which would mean holding fire until I had control and then doing it.

Obviously as a buyer, I would want a hefty discount on the price of the stadium in the purchase price.

There are a couple of interesting points to note on the stadium though.

Firstly, Birmingham City Stadium Ltd have finally notified Companies House that Achiever Global Group Ltd have bought the company from BSH.

The timing of this could mean that it’s some housekeeping ahead of a takeover, and that things are underway

However, from looking at Companies House the confirmation statement for BCSL was due on May 19, 2022. The confirmation statement confirms who is in control of the company and this would have needed to be updated before it was submitted; so the timing of this change could be coincidental.

The other interesting point comes from the club accounts and was pointed out to me by a reader of this website.

I’d picked up on a debt between BCSL and BCFC but I admitted I couldn’t understand what it was for.

He was able to locate the relevant clauses in the sale of the stadium company to Achiever Global Group Ltd which said that BCSL owed BCFC money – and that in lieu of paying rent for the next 4 years or so, BCFC would reduce the debt owing.

So while the stadium might be falling down, Blues aren’t paying any rent for it for now – which I guess is good for cashflow.

The Future

The biggest issue I have this summer is this feeling that any takeover will be better than what we have now. The last few years have really been grating and with Lee Bowyer talking about another season of austerity coming in, I can understand why people are desperate for anything positive.

It’s a feeling that some are capitalising on too.

I remember back in the days of BSH being in Receivership this feeling that there would be a “caretaker” style takeover, before the club being flipped again to someone who would properly take it on.

Those feelings are being floated again – and I’m going to say here and now I’m dead against them.

As painful as next season could be, I personally do not want to see the club taken over in any way other than a clean break from the incumbent owners.

We already know that the Richardson / Lopez bid is a staged deal which would take place over a period of time.

We don’t know anything about the Harris bid realistically; as much as we’ve been told it’s for the whole club I’m still suspicious if it’s a staged deal or not.

I get why it may seem there is a need for a staged deal; after all BSH want to retain their listing at a minimum; it might be that they’re not yet ready to relinquish total control of the club either.

However, I firmly believe that a staged deal isn’t good enough for the club.

If as it seems BSH are hurting for money, then I think it’s time for any buyer to put the screws in and insist on a buyer friendly deal before any cash changes hands.

I’d be especially insistent on this right now due to my feeling that the house of cards surrounding Wang Yaohui (aka the elusive Mr King) are coming down as I would not want to be connected to him in any way when the brown stuff really hits the fan.

It’s imperative the club is out of BSH’s hands when that happens.

For me, this takeover isn’t about next season, but the next decade. I’m willing to wait out a month or two more if it means the right people get it in the right way – whoever they are.