BCFC: The Club Update

September has started well for Birmingham City. Saturday saw Blues pick up three points on the road against Preston North End against a team who hadn’t conceded a goal yet this season at a place that hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Blues over the years. Off the pitch, the club released an update which while sparse on detail did finally confirm officially that the Maxco consortium are in the process of buying a shareholding in the club.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

After what has been a somewhat disappointing start to the season, it’s good to see Blues back on track with a good win at a tough team.

Tahith Chong and Krystian Bielik made their second debuts for Blues on Saturday, both giving a much-needed boost to a midfield which has in the past few weeks been shorn of experience due to injury and sale of other players.

While both Bielik and Chong came off during the game due to a lack of full match fitness, the omens look good for a much-improved side in the coming weeks as they get both fitter and others return from injury.

Off the pitch, the club finally put out an official update confirming that Paul Richardson and Maxi Lopez have made an approach to buy both a shareholding in the club as well as St Andrew’s stadium.

If you’ve not already seen the update, you can read it here.

Although many fans have criticised the update for merely telling us what we already knew, I think it’s a huge step forward as club officials have confirmed that there is a process ongoing.

However, some of the wording used in the update bears closer inspection.

Why now? Who put this update out?

It was kinda surprising that the club put out a monthly update; we went through August without one and I didn’t think another one would be coming any time soon.

Yet I suspect pressure inside the club was building to say something.

It’s been nearly eight weeks since Maxi Lopez and Paul Richardson rocked up on the Kop car park and it’s pretty hard to deny that they’ve been involved at the club based on their appearances both on social media and at games.

Releasing an update was good for Maxco because it legitimised them further and potentially even shot down criticism from journalists about what was going on.

However, it’s my understanding that the update came at the insistence of the incumbent board.

Normally, I would be careful of getting involved in semantics when I know something has come as a direct order from the board. I’m very aware that English is not their first language and as such I think it’s unfair to pull apart someone’s usage of the language because of it.

This update however had legal connotations; it was talking about an ongoing process which has lawyers all over it and therefore I think semantics are very important.

The sentence that stood out to me was this one (bolding is mine):

In the meantime, the Club has welcomed them to the Stadium and to matches, so they can build the foundations for a successful working relationship and collaborate in the coming years.

We all knew that Richardson and Lopez were not buying the whole club at once; that there would be a staged sale and that the larger part of Blues would not change hands for two to three years.

The question has always been how much control would Maxco have once they got the first 21.64% of it.

Richardson has always insisted that they would have total control of the club and that they would make all the decisions.

Wording like “working relationship” and “collaborate” in the update doesn’t fill me with confidence that Birmingham Sports Holdings will take a complete back seat.

I asked a question on social media to find out what other fans thought about it and while the response was fairly mixed, a common theme among it was a similar fear that this takeover is more about propping up BSH than actually taking full control of the club.

That being said, I also have to respect the people who said that without the full facts in front of them it was difficult to know what to think and that they would wait and see what happened before making a judgement.

This summer has not been kind to people who have jumped in with both feet with their opinions while facts have been sparse on the ground. It makes sense to continue to be circumspect about the situation which is still very fluid.

The statement also came in the week before Richardson and Lopez among others are meeting the EFL to be interviewed about the takeover.

I would think that the EFL will want to carefully question all parties involved in this transaction about this issue of control when they meet with them this week; after all, there has been an issue about who controls the club for a number of years which is only now just being investigated.

It’s my opinion the EFL will want some cast iron assurances that if they let this takeover go through, that control of the club will be transparent and open with them at least.

What about Hong Kong?

While the club have confirmed what is going on, there continues to be a wall of silence from Hong Kong with no announcement made to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong at the time of writing.

I’ve discussed the lack of statement with people and I’ve been told the belief is the clarification made back in June is seen to be enough by both BSH and the HKSE.

As both a shareholder in BSH and a fan, I can’t agree and as such on Friday night I made my fourth complaint to the HKSE about the lack of any announcement from BSH to confirm or deny what is going on.

If I’m honest, I don’t think my complaint is going to get anywhere.

Despite me linking the club announcement in my complaint, I suspect the same answer is going to come back – that the June clarification is enough to cover it at least until the EFL approval comes through.

It’s a shame, because while I can easily believe that detail can’t be given, it would be nice to know from the holding company some sort of confirmation that there will potentially be a shift in who controls the club at least.

I said in my last piece that I think this is the month that everything has to become clearer.

Although unofficial, I understand Maxco will again be covering outgoings this month which means the amount of money they have invested into this takeover is steadily rising.

There needs to be some sort of reassurance now that they will get some semblance of control before investing too much more; particularly if Richardson and Lopez want to start on the stadium repairs during the World Cup break.

Fans too need to have some reassurance that things are moving forwards. We’ve been in the situation before recently where there has been two factions vying for control in the boardroom; that ended in Receivership and a year of limbo for the club.

While I don’t think Receivership or the dreaded “A” word are a possibility right now, I do think that it’s important that the powers that be not allow the club to drift any further into stagnation.