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Apathy and Protests
Whilst social media and Facebook in particular were ablaze with the idea of protest against the Birmingham City board on Saturday, planned direct action failed to materialise at St Andrews. As feelings had run high amongst fans judging by some of the comments I had seen online what has changed?
I’m not sure if it was apathy, a lowered level of anger due to the way transfer deadline day went or a combination of the two but nothing happened after two weeks of rumours about sit-ins, walk outs and protests on the Kop car park. I think that a good result on the pitch combined with a good performance and a visible villan of the piece in McLeish helped increase the feelgood factor and as such most fans coming out of the ground seemed reasonably happy from what I could see.
I was at the Blues Trust meeting that was held beforehand – indeed, I gave a short presentation on some proposals that I had worked on with the Trust (which can be viewed on their website) – and whilst there was some talk of protest I think that there was also a prevalent mood that the team needed to be backed. I got the impression from the people who were there that there was a feeling that Blues’ plight was being overlooked in the media and by the footballing authorities and that protest was more about making people aware of what was happening than actually striking back at the owners.
I don’t think that is true. There has been coverage in the local media – maybe not as much as some would like but a lot of that is due to the financial constraints on our local media outlets to report on the club – most of the issues are out in Hong Kong and I don’t think that the resources are in place for local media outlets to spend time out there looking for answers.
Likewise, I think that there are misconceptions about the money issues that the club has. As much as people want to believe it, I have been repeatedly reassured – Friday being the last time – by senior figures at the club that no money has left the club for HK; a statement which is backed by the accounts. If an illustration of where money has gone is needed, then a comparison of £16mil in parachute money with a £25mil wage bill should illustrate the main problem the club has – excessive player wages.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a situation that is going to go away soon either. Having heard Mr Pannu state whilst interviewed with Tom Ross that the parent company accounts could be needed before the club was sold, I spent some time looking into this to find that it is indeed the case. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange Rules, Chapter 14 govern acquisitions and disposals by listed companies and rule 14.68 (pg 39 of the above link) states that a very substantial disposal (which the sale of BCFC would be) would require the accounts of BCFC (audited by BIH’s auditors) and the up-to-date audited accounts of BIH included in any proposal to shareholders of a sale of BCFC. With the accounts of BIH due out (at the moment) at the end of March that means any proposal of sale couldn’t be issued until then at the earliest – and then it would require shareholder approval, meaning we would be lucky to see a sale completed by the end of the season at the earliest.
So where do we go from here? I think we have to accept that there will be some time now before any sale is completed – even the end of the season may being optimistic as it assumes that there is a buyer ready to go when the accounts are published with a figure for the club that will be acceptable to the BIH board and the shareholders. Whilst there are now sufficient finances in place for the remainder of the season I’d like some reassurance as the season progresses that there are plans in place both for BCFC and for BIH should BIH continue to own the club beyond the accounts year end in June of this year.
As fans, I believe the most important thing we can do is to back the team – staying in this division is paramount and a strong fanbase that remains committed to the club will help to make it a more attractive prospect to potential bidders.