Just like most supporters, I love my football club. At the age of five, I was taken to my first game and from then on never looked back. I’ll watch every minute of every game if possible, and spend more time reading about them on a daily basis than is sensible.
The thought of losing my club is therefore gut-wrenching and almost impossible to imagine. Whether it is due to financial oblivion or having its identity ripped out, I could not take it. It’s a feeling that resonates amongst so many fans, big clubs and small. So spare a thought for Cardiff City supporters, as this is the reality they now live in.
The background to the story is one which we’ve already heard far too often in football and is only likely to become more common, sadly. By 2004, under the control of Sam Hammam, the club had a total debt of £24m. This initially reduced under Peter Ridsdale’s stewardship, however by the time of the 2010 playoff final, the club was on the verge of facing a winding up order from HMRC.
Just as we have seen at Leeds, Portsmouth and Rangers (to name a few) poor financial management and unrealistic ambition nearly brought the club to its knees. Malaysian investor, Vincent Tan, put £6m into the club to deal with the short term problems initially, which has since risen to £35m.
Tan’s investment initially kept Cardiff out of administration, but at a cost which no football fan wishes to bear. The change of kit colour from blue to red and the apparent new badge is upsetting for fans, but eventually they will be dealt with. The biggest concern, however, is the general apathy towards the supporters as a whole.
On 27 June, a meeting was held at Cardiff City Stadium for all fans who requested a refund on their season tickets due to the recent developments. Club representatives in attendance included Chief Executive, Alan Whiteley, who did most of the speaking on behalf of the football club. Full details can be found here courtesy of My Only Cardiff, and I urge you all to read the report in full.
It leaves an overriding sense of sadness, no matter who you support. Worryingly it was revealed that Tan had not provided any business plan or provided details of his long term intentions. Furthermore, it became clear as the meeting developed that the fans were simply the last consideration in the whole episode. Fans are what make a football club; they create and develop the identity, yet in this case they are being left behind.
I’m generally uncomfortable with the current trend of overseas ownership in domestic football. It has nothing to do with nationality but it is the motivation that concerns me. Investors such as Tan simply do not care about the clubs themselves or the supporters. They are interested solely in making money on their investment, and have no interest in those for whom the club means so much. For example, would it shock you if the club was uprooted and moved elsewhere? It should do, but it’s a feasible outcome.
It is not just Tan’s model of investment which is concerning. Manchester United, previously such a well run club, are saddled with debt, just for the pleasure of having new owners. Chelsea and Manchester City are at the whim of wealthy owners who could walk away at any time and cripple the club. Venky’s reign at Blackburn has been a disaster, while Liverpool had their problems with Hicks and Gillett.
This is not just an issue that should concern Cardiff City supporters; it should raise anxiety amongst all football fans. It could happen to your club, and even if it does not, we should all collectively feel the pain of those who do suffer. Rules need to change, and fast, before we start to lose our football clubs.