You can read the full article by Matt Slater at this (paywalled) link.
According to the report, former Argentine international striker Maxi Lopez will receive a one-month ban suspended until the end of the 2023-24 season, while Richardson will get a two-month suspended ban.
Former Charlton chairman Matt Southall is to receive the harshest sanction of the three, a six-month suspended ban.
It was further reported that neither Vong Pech nor Birmingham City have accepted any punishment. This means that their cases will be held at an independent disciplinary hearing, which is unlikely to happen this season.
While there are some questions as to how relevant these charges are bearing in mind the attempt by Maxco to take the club over is very much dead, I think it’s worth talking about this case if only to reassure fans.
The Maxco Trio
I don’t think there should be any surprise that Richardson, Lopez and Southall were charged by the EFL considering the way things were happening during the attempt by Maxco Capital to buy Birmingham City.
The charges levelled against the Maxco trio related to an issue regarding the amount of control Maxco exercised over the club during their attempted takeover.
As I’ve mentioned before, while it seems outwardly obvious that these charges related to the social media posts made by Richardson and Lopez during that period, the fact is that those selfies weren’t actually anything to do with it.
Indeed, the fact that Southall is to receive the harshest punishment of the three despite not featuring in any of the aforementioned social media posts should confirm that this was related something a bit deeper than selfies on Instagram.
As I understand it, the EFL were unhappy with the Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) signed by Maxco and Vong Pech.
This agreement appeared to give Maxco control of decisions at the club while negotiations were ongoing; something that the EFL were unhappy with as none of the three had completed the Owners and Directors Test (OADT) beforehand.
As part of this agreement, Matt Southall was present at the club in a day-to-day kind of role; a role which in the end appears to have ensures that he is hit with the hardest sanction.
However, despite appearing to be caught bang to rights the sanctions are not much more than a slap on a wrist and a promise not to do it again.
This is more than likely down to the trio retaining the services of Nick De Marco KC, who is rated as one of the leading silks in Sports Law.
Having seen this excellent legal performance from De Marco in this instance, I can’t help but wonder if Paul Richardson is wishing he could turn back time to hire the barrister from the outset of his takeover bid.
Vong Pech and the Club
I will admit my initial thoughts were that neither Vong Pech nor the club could accept any kind of liability in this case due to potential implications it might have regarding Birmingham Sports Holdings and the HKSE stock listing.
While I’ve not received any comment from Birmingham City relating to this case, sources away from the club I have spoken to off the record have confirmed to me that I am in error.
I’m not completely sure of the sanction that has been offered to Vong Pech as an alternative to a hearing, but I do not believe it was any harsher than the sanctions which are reported to be applied to the Maxco trio.
What I think is most likely in Vong’s case is that he feels any sanction against him is unfair, and that he has decided to allow it to go to the independent disciplinary commission to completely clear his name.
Having seen the EFL already fold in the face of a robust legal defence from De Marco, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vong thinks he can get a better result by taking it further.
I think it’s also likely that the club feel similarly.
I’ve heard from a couple of different sources that the rumoured sanction offered to the club was a suspended two-point deduction; something that seems incredibly harsh bearing in mind it wasn’t the club who signed the agreement.
If that rumour is true, then I think the club are only right to force it to go to an independent disciplinary commission.
Having seen some of the hysteria on Facebook in particular after Reading was deducted six points, I think I need to make it clear that any such potential hearing will take months to happen due to all the legal wrangling that will happen first.
The Wang Yaohui Investigation
I think the biggest thing to take from this is that the Maxco investigation has ended up not amounting to much.
While the outcome is a little bit embarrassing for Richardson et al, it’s nothing in comparison to the near £8m that they have put into Blues without any clear way of recovery.
Likewise, while it’s a bit embarrassing for fans to see the club being in the news again for these reasons, these charges are nothing much more than an aperitif for the Wang Yaohui investigation ahead.
Those charges are the ones which will lay bare who the EFL are holding to account for the obfuscatory mess that is the Birmingham City ownership, and hopefully also the charges that will once and for all force change for the club.
I’m somewhat surprised those charges weren’t confirmed during the international break, but from speaking to various sources I am confident that they are not too far away.
I’ve no doubt we’ll see panic on social media from fans who are convinced that the EFL have some sort of crazed vendetta against Blues.
For this reason I want to once again reassure people that any hearing for those charges will not happen this season; maybe not even this calendar year.
More importantly, those charges will force the authorities in Hong Kong to put Birmingham Sports Holdings firmly under the microscope.
I’ve had confirmation from sources both here in Birmingham and in the Far East that BSH are already feeling the pressure – and it’s this pressure that will finally swing the deal in the favour of potential buyers.
It’s also worth noting that the vibe I’ve got from people who have spoken to the EFL, is that the EFL themselves are doing what they can to exert pressure on BSH to sell.
Right now, we’re in the calm before the final storm; the final pause before the big boss fight.
This summer should be the one where everything changes and the club can finally move forwards.
Rather than being scared of hearings and what punishments the club might face, we need to look at the bigger picture and understand that finally, someone is holding the ownership to account.