BCFC: Stadium Update

Birmingham City released an update to fans on Thursday evening, confirming plans to proceed with the next stage of repairs of the St Andrew’s Stadium. The update confirmed that work would be done to remove the pre-cast concrete units from both the lower Tilton and Kop during the World Cup break.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

If you haven’t read the update yet, it can be accessed at the official Blues website at this link.

The update is a welcome one for fans as it’s the first time we’ve heard something positive about the repair process for some time.

It’s my understanding that three weeks of pitch side access are needed to continue with this phase of the project. This meant that if nothing was done during the World Cup break, we’d have been waiting until the close season for any works to actually begin.

With the situation surrounding who is actually funding the club being very opaque to say the least, questions have arisen from some fans about what will happen. With this in mind, I’ve put together this piece to try and answer those to the best of my knowledge.

What will happen?

The big news in this update I think is that the club have been able to name who is going to manage this part of the project, who will be involved from the design aspect and who will actually undertake the work.

All of the companies named are highly reputable and have experience in the field which should give confidence to Blues fans that things are going to be done properly.

Blues last fixture at home before the World Cup is against Sunderland on Friday 11 November, while the first home fixture after the break is against Reading on Saturday 17 December.

This means that there are 36 days to get this work done, which hopefully means that with 21 days pitch access apparently required it should get finished in time for the visit of the Royals.

I think there has been some minor confusion with fans about the phrase “made safe to operate” within the update.

This doesn’t mean that the lower parts of the stadium will be completed by December 17; it merely means that the lower parts will be in a safe enough condition for the safety certificate for the ground to remain signed off.

As confirmed in the update, the remaining repairs would then resume immediately after the end of the season with the aim to complete by the start of the 2023/24 season.

I think the club have been sensible in saying that the aim is to have it completed by then rather than making a promise it will be done. One of the problems with this whole repair has been the fact the club have uncovered more and more issues, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that there is no probability there might be complications to come.

Despite people (rightfully) pointing out that this has dragged on for too long, I think we must be positive about this update. Nothing can be done about the delays in the past and one of the people who I think was the chief culprits for this is no longer with the club.

We know now what is happening and when; hopefully now it’s just a matter of time before it is completed.

Who is paying for this?

The other question I’ve seen a lot of on social media is who is paying for this work to be done. It’s been seemingly evident that there has been a reluctance from the current owners to pay for the repairs to be completed, and with the Maxco takeover still ongoing for both the club and the stadium there is an assumption that Maxco are footing the bill.

While I can understand that assumption, I think there has to be more nuance than that with regards to this situation.

As it stands, Maxco officially have no financial interest in the club, with confirmation in the BSH accounts that they have not completed the purchase of Vong Pech’s 21.64% stake as they still await EFL approval.

Now it might be a different situation unofficially, but without paper confirmation I think it would be legally irresponsible to assume that the money is coming directly from Maxco.

The EFL approval process right now is not only looking at the suitability of Maxco to buy the club, but at the issues surrounding control of the club.

I’m fairly sure that Paul Richardson, Maxi Lopez and their colleagues are doing what they can to show that will no longer be an issue and won’t endanger that by doing anything that isn’t strictly above board with regards to finances.

That being said, I do believe that this next stage of repairs would not be going ahead without the presence of Maxco at the club.

If it is indeed Maxco who are footing the bill it’s another expense to add to the pile despite having no official control.

As per Brian Dick of the Birmingham Mail there has been no inkling from the EFL that the takeover will be approved any time soon; which means depending on your outlook regarding this takeover, this move could be seen as astute or courageous.

The one company I’m sure isn’t paying for the repairs is Birmingham City Stadium Ltd, which as it stands is owned 75% by Achiever Global Group Ltd and 25% by Oriental Rainbow Investments Ltd.

During this saga it’s been clear that there has been no effort by the stadium company to make the repairs and the assumption has been that Blues have a lease which requires them to repair the stadium.

I’m still yet to locate Achiever Global owner Kang Ming-Ming to be able to ask her for her views on this, while messages sent to the only email address I have for Vong Pech remains unanswered. Sadly, I don’t expect that situation to change any time soon either.

I know people accuse me of being negative a lot, but I genuinely think this update is positive; once again it’s proof that the club are trying to communicate with us – not to mention the fact there is now light at the end of the tunnel of this ongoing problem.

I’ve also seen people being critical of Managing Director Ian Dutton for being “missing in action” too on social media which I think is unfair.

My personal opinion is that I don’t really want to hear from Dutton on things like this until there is something that is informative to say.

I’m very much of the opinion that open communication from the club is a good thing but I also believe that it has to be structured and informative.

I do think that Dutton made a rod for his own back by being so outwardly contactable when first appointed because it created the expectation that he always would be, which was never going to be feasible.

I can speak for my own experience that trying to answer every question on social media is taxing mentally, and that it is impossible to satisfy everyone.

It’s my hope now that people can be patient enough to wait for further updates on these repairs when milestones are reached, rather than after some arbitrary time period.

Of course, if there are issues I think the club need to be up front about them rather than hiding from them as they have in the past – but right now I’m going to be positive and assume that things are going to be okay.