The club made this announcement yesterday on their website and, although the wording could be said to be somewhat ambiguous, it soon became clear that the Langston corporation had agreed and signed up to a renegotiation of the loan note debt dating back to autumn 2004. The original £24 million debt had already been amended once in 2006/07 with an agreement that it would be automatically reduced by £9 million once naming rights had been signed for the new stadium, but, although precise details of the new arrangement have not been released, it has been mentioned by Peter Ridsdale that it involves the club paying off a portion of the debt (believed to be £83,000) every month from January 2010 with an additional agreement in place that the debt could be increased by £1 million per year if City default on the arrangement.
Messageboard rumour has it that the outstanding £15 million debt has been negotiated down to £10 million with an additional payment due if the club were to win promotion to the Premiership, but it is perhaps the fact that the agreement makes any further court action very unlikely, unless either party does not stick to the terms of the new contract, which is perhaps the main immediate benefit for the club.
Peter Ridsdale gave his upbeat take on the situation in this interview with the BBC with two things striking me about what he said. Firstly, speaking as someone who has been very critical of the man in the past four years or so, it is only right that the part Sam Hammam played in his role as Langston’s representative in all of this should be acknowledged. I was always confident that Langston would sign up to the new terms, but was of the opinion that we would see the usual brinkmanship which would have us minutes from everything crashing down all around us before agreement was reached – that hasn’t happened and so I feel it is right to offer Sam Hammam thanks for this and for the shot in the arm that he provided for Cardiff City nearly ten years ago at a time when the club really needed it.
The second, very intriguing, thing about what Peter Ridsdale said was the reference to the ongoing due diligence procedure regarding new investment from Malaysia. With Dato Chan Tien Ghee (TG) already on board, this adds weight to the widely held belief that there is still major investment to come with it looking increasingly likely that billionaire Vincent Tan is going to play a part in any future cash injection into the club – if this is true, then, on the face of it, it is marvellous news for the club and it’s supporters as it could mean that the whole outlook and standing of Cardiff City is about to change very much for the better.
There is still the need for caution though of course – does any future investment mean that all we are doing in effect is swapping one debt for another? It has to be a possibility I suppose, but with the rumour mill saying that any investment is likely to come in the form of acquiring shares in the club, then, hopefully, that will not be the case.
If there is really going to be major new investment from Malaysia then I think it is worth remembering what Peter Ridsdale was saying when the news of TG’s interest first broke – that is that there is tremendous interest in British football and, in particular, the Premiership in Asia and, if they could get a team to the top flight, then there must be serious money making opportunities from that part of the world for those who market a club in the right way. Now I realise I am getting ahead of myself somewhat here, but, if the club did get to the Premiership under Malaysian ownership and they presented Cardiff City to their fellow country men and women as “our club”, then I don’t think we in the UK can really appreciate the potential income that might entail – I have a suspicion that is how any new investor in the club from the Far East would see the situation anyway.
It also needs to be remembered that, despite Peter Ridsdale’s assurances that everything is fine, we still have a court date with the taxman arranged for 3 February and until official confirmation is given by HRMC that the winding up order for non payment of taxes has been withdrawn, it is not really worth getting too excited about what the future might hold because, at the moment, there is still a possibility, no matter how slight it may be, that we will not have one!