The first thing to do here is to record my thanks to Dave Sugarman for providing the means by which Cardiff City supporters who were unable to attend yesterday’s Extraordinary General Meeting were able to get an idea of what was said. Dave posted a very detailed report of the meeting on the Cardiff City.com messageboard and I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t read it already do so now because it is the best insight into Boardroom thinking at the club we have had in ages.
Before commenting on what I think all of this says about the people supporters are going to have to rely on to deliver us from the financial mess we are in, just a few brief thoughts on individual items that were discussed;-
1. Although it may just have been press speculation, I am sure I read that the House of Sport was going to provide an income stream for the club, but, leaving that aside, the explanations given make the land deal (which was the only formal item on the agenda yesterday) sound like something that is beneficial to Cardiff City at this time.
2. Peter Ridsdale says that we are only one of six Championship clubs that are attempting to be self sufficient. I can’t help thinking that we compare very poorly with the other five given that we have the highest average gate out of the six, three of these clubs have also moved into new grounds in the fairly recent past and the other two have had major ground reconstruction in the last decade. Okay, Plymouth have had their financial problems this year and we are higher in the table than most of them, but I am virtually certain that our wage bill is, comfortably, the highest of those six clubs – I would be very interested in an accountant’s view as to which is the least financially efficient club in that group of six.
3. Although, having worked in the place, the excuse that Companies House would not accept the form sent to them by the club confirming Dato Chan Tien Ghee’s (TG) appointment as a Director sounded pretty implausible to me, the news that TG has, almost certainly, invested more than double the reported £200,000 into the club is at least good news and seems to indicate that he is still involved in some way with the club.
4. On the face of it, Peter Ridsdale’s contention that “neither he nor the club’s other representatives have had any meaningful meetings with potential investors without revealing the club’s full financial liabilities” contradicts what he said at the meeting at the Municipal club on 30 November.
5. I take it that the £100,000 bonus mentioned as being paid to Peter Ridsdale is in addition to the one he got before the new ground scheme formally went unconditional in 2007? With additional bonuses going to two other directors as well for completion of the stadium only for us to be later told of unpaid bills for “fitting out” costs, it makes it very hard for this supporter to put the image of pigs at a trough out of his mind.
I could go on much longer about individual points from yesterday’s meeting, but I’ll leave it at that and now ask what do yesterday’s proceedings tell us about the people running Cardiff City? Well, my parents brought me up believing that you don’t buy things that you can’t really afford and that is a philosophy that, with a few exceptions, I have stuck to throughout my life with the result that I do not believe I suffered as much in the credit crunch as others did. Now, whilst I accept that it is stretching a point to make a comparison between an individual and the business that is a modern day football club, I can’t help thinking that a bit more of my parent’s type of thinking has been required at Cardiff City for the best part of a decade. Of course, it would be naive to think that any individual or business should never take the financial plunge so to speak, but isn’t the point that those in charge at Cardiff City have been doing that far more than, say, the people in charge of those five Championship clubs that Peter Ridsdale matched us with appear to have done?
I’ve always believed that the best way to win an argument is to use the other parties own words or actions against them and, with that in mind you only have to read that report of the meeting yesterday to see that Ridsdale and co are hanging themselves with their own rope. For a start, you have Peter Ridsdale admitting that the plan had been to sell two players in the summer (he’d obviously forgotten that we sold Paul Parry as well as Roger Johnson) and yet we started buying when we sold the first of those players (worse than that, we had committed ourselves to paying for Michael Chopra before we had sold anyone). When we were unable to sell Ledley or McCormack last summer we had lumbered ourselves with more debt and, whilst I appreciate that supporters like myself would have moaned like anything at the time, wouldn’t the more prudent course of action have been to hang fire on signings like Hudson, Quinn and Gerrard and look to use the loan market more like teams such as Stoke have done in the past?
On a similar theme, both Peter Ridsdale and Alan Flitcroft made reference to a written agreement for anything between £2 and £6 million to have been received from new investors which had not been honoured, but, once again, the club have been budgeting for, or, even worse, spending money that it didn’t have. With particular reference to the now notorious golden ticket scheme, and given that we have now had it confirmed that the club have been the subject of a transfer embargo since the Autumn, weren’t the Board being either naively incompetent or dishonest in “guaranteeing” what they did based on a promise of investment which had first surfaced in August but had still not arrived yet in December and January?
However, the most telling thing for me is that, as Peter Ridsdale pointed out himself yesterday, we were waiting for incoming transfer fees and investment “against a backdrop of the club having to find money to build and fit out the stadium, meet repayments on loans to former directors, make repayments on the debt owed to PMG and make repayments to the Langston Corporation”! Now, I am an emotional football fan and so am not financially au fait enough to earn £300,000+ pa (after tax), but doesn’t all of that make the decision to spend £2 million (at the very least) in the transfer market last summer a ridiculously poor business decision? Against the “backdrop” that Peter Ridsdale talks about, isn’t the decision to hire, another, stadium manager and a press officer another example of poor decision making in financial and business terms?
Those charged with running the finances of our club are paid more than most of us because, we are told, they possess a knowledge of the relevant subject matter that we do not and yet, since at least last summer, they have been making decisions in their alleged field of expertise that even a financial novice like me can see are deeply flawed. The consequences of these blunders are there for all to see – a transfer embargo and a third winding up order of the season confirmed yesterday and all the while all they can offer is the hope that the major new investors that they have failed to attract in the past three and more years will turn up in the next few weeks.
We are being led by the modern day equivalent of the Grand Old Duke of York who has marched the club to the top of the hill which was the Cup Final and work starting on the new ground only for him now, just as he did at Leeds, to be marching us all the way back down again – trouble is I get the feeling that the return journey is going to take far longer and be much more dangerous than the way up was!