BCFC: The Invite

On Monday, November 27 Blues will hold their slightly postponed first edition of “Blues Open House” at St Andrew’s. The initiative will see 100 or so invited fans including myself attend a series of presentations about the future of the club along with a short Q&A session with Blues CEO Garry Cook and the leadership team.

Double fisting pints at the George

If you’ve not heard about this initiative, you can read the original article about it on the official Blues website or my previous article on this website where I talked about what has been organised.

In honesty, this is not the easiest piece for me to write.

The last time I wrote about attending a meeting with a Blues CEO I got into all kinds of trouble both with the club who were angry at me for saying something and from fans angry because I refused to break confidences on what was discussed in that meeting.

I can imagine I’ll get some backlash from some quarters for getting an invitation for this event. I freely admit I do not represent any opinions other than my own and that I have no desire to be any kind of spokesman for fans.

However, I believe in transparency.

That means despite how uncomfortable it makes me feel, I need to be honest and confirm that I’ve received an invitation along with my reasons for going and what I hope to achieve by attending.

Why I’m attending the Blues Open House event

I can understand why many fans have clamoured for an invite to go. After all, it’s the first time in a long time the club has opened itself to fans to discuss strategy and future planning.

There have long been criticisms from some fans about the people who attended fans forums in the past; insinuations of cosy meetings over biscuits where the latest spin can be agreed before it is disseminated to the masses.

When I attended the infamous “Secret Meeting” with former CEO Ren Xuandong back in January 2020, those accusations would have not been massively unfair.

Invites were sent out on the downlow, and attendees were asked by Ren to agree to keep the meeting secret before anything was discussed.

I can still remember now how uncomfortable I felt with that agreement.

Indeed, I think had I not been wedged into a corner of the room where I couldn’t leave without a huge degree of awkwardness, I might have had the bollocks to say no and bail there and then.

The stupid thing is nobody missed anything of any real note.

The meeting was a farce; Ren spent most of it justifying to fans his reasons for getting rid of Garry Monk (which I agreed with at the time and still do now).

The only difficult questions I asked of Ren he dodged with a stupid jokey answer making the meeting pointless and leaving me with the feeling that I had been duped into allowing someone to have some degree of control over me.

This time it feels different.

The invite comes with the clear implication that fans have been invited for their ability to share their views of what is said as far and as wide as possible.

It also mentions that the opening and closing sessions will be broadcast on a slight delay as live on Blues TV, with the presentations also being filmed and shown as a compilation at a later date.

There is a clear agenda of what will be presented to fans, as well as a structured Q&A with the ability to ask one question when RSVPing to the invite.

While I’m not expecting anything groundbreaking or particularly controversial I think I have a duty to listen and to report what happens via this website.

I’ve tried to write things that are informative over the years and I think this fits in with the scope of what I do with this website.

What will happen at Blues Open House

The Open House event is scheduled to take place between 6pm and 9:45pm, and has been carefully structured to offer attending fans as much information as possible.

As I guessed in my previous piece, the bulk of the evening will be presentations made to fans by the club about future strategy for infrastructure, revenue and growth at the club.

There are six presentations in all:

  1. Alliance – fan engagement
  2. Identity – on the pitch
  3. High-performance – infrastructure plans
  4. Partnerships – revenue growth
  5. Lifeblood – power of the Academy
  6. Connections – we are Birmingham

While these topics might not be for everyone, each one of them is of interest to me personally as I want to understand more about how Tom Wagner and Knighthead see the future of Birmingham City.

I think what will be most interesting is how much granular detail each topic goes into.

There are a total of two hours for all the presentations to be given, which when combined with time to switch between them means I think they will be no more than about 15 minutes each in length.

What I’m hoping for is that rather than buzzwords like “no fear”, we’ll be given a little bit more insight into the ideas that Knighthead and co have for the future of the club.

I doubt we can be given any precise timelines or financial information; those who are hoping to see the transfer plans for the summer may be very disappointed.

However, if Cook and his management team can share their vision in a way which helps us to understand the decisions that are being made, then that can only be a positive thing.

The thirty-minute Q&A session at the end will most likely be to answer the most worthy of the questions sent to the club prior to the meeting and as such, I’m not expecting anything massive to come out of that.

Realistically, whatever happens the most important thing that I think will come out of this event will be lessons to make the next one in three months’ time better.

What can be expected of me and this website afterwards?

I appreciate that my pieces have been a bit less frequent of late since the Knighthead takeover and my semi-retirement from writing about Blues.

However, as the club have made it clear that they have invited people to help share what happened it is only right I make a commitment to how I will meet this requirement.

There will be lots of people there who will no doubt share stuff on social media as the event is happening to their audiences.

With this in mind I’m not going to go out of my way to post on social media.

Instead, I’m going to commit to taking as much in the way of notes of each presentation as I can. That way I can then share what was presented on this website as best I can, as truthfully as I can.

I’m also going to try and record a podcast with someone (likely Mark Watson of Fat Lads Go in Goal) as soon as possible after the event to discuss the event.

Knowing how Mark has structured the podcasts I have recorded with him before, I would hope we can answer questions put to us by fans and build a conversation.

The final thing I’m going to commit to is to send feedback to the club based on everything that is discussed to help them improve.

While these events are a presentation on the evening they should become part of a longer dialogue between board and fans; especially with respect to “the Alliance” idea that is continually being put forward.

As I said at the start of my piece, I’m expecting some backlash for coming out and saying openly that I have received an invitation; that’s part and parcel of being known online.

However, by writing this article and being honest in my thoughts and actions, I hope I can at least justify my attendance of this event.

The most important thing in this is that there is a genuine effort from the club to try to be more communicative with fans.

I sincerely hope it can be understood how this is a step forward in the right direction – and that future steps don’t necessarily have to be exactly the same.