Vincent Tan broke his silence on the re-branding issue this week. This statement on the official site appeared on Thursday and has provoked much debate and comment as the issue which, unfortunately, has completely dominated Cardiff City’s close season rumbles on. For myself, the first thing to be said about our biggest shareholder’s comments is that they were most welcome simply because the silence from him and, to a lesser extent Chairman TG, was becoming deafening. I’m also happy that there is a fairly detailed account of the £100 million investment which goes with the kit and badge change is to be broken down, but, typically in this most fractious of summers, whenever the club, or people within it, try to “clarify” the situation it raises more questions than answers and polarises opinions even more – for me, Vincent Tan’s statement falls into that category for two main reasons.
First, we are still none the wiser as to whether there are any business and commercial reasons why the change from blue to red “will give this club a new focus and dynamism”. There are vague hints about showing City games in the Far East (Premiership rules, apparently, state that this cannot be done with live matches on an individual club basis, not sure that applies to the Championship though) and “other projects” which will “be announced in due course”, but still, and I think this is particularly hard to accept for those of us prepared to be pragmatic about the changes, nothing to confirm that the change to red is anything more than a rich man’s whim.
In saying that, I’ve already set out my indifference to the colours we wear and the badge we use, so, a purely personal opinion is that the change from blue to red has almost become secondary in importance to me when compared to the chance to secure the club’s future by wiping out nearly all of it’s debt through a debt to equity conversion. At the meetings between club officials and invited supporters in early May, the distinct impression was given that this was a process which would leave the club virtually debt free at it’s end – there was no mention of debt to equity in Vincent Tan’s statement though and Alan Whiteley has said;-
“The reality is that the Malaysians are funding the club and their debt carries conversion rights. They could take control if they wanted to. They have always shied away from doing that because they wanted to retain the Welsh connection. That’s why they haven’t done that previously.
With the quantum of investment they may be forced to take full control in due course.”
in a recent Echo interview.
Now, none of this means that there will not be a debt to equity conversion in the future, but it’s also hardly a confirmation of what was said at those meetings either and the idea that, instead of eventually being an almost debt free club, we could be one with another £100 million (plus 7% interest) owed to an an investor looks more of a possibility to me now than it did a few weeks ago – if that happens then my, grudging, “reluctant red” support for the proposals disappears – it would be a case of “out of the frying pan into the volcano”.
Just about the most depressing aspect of the whole affair for me is that our future still appears to be in the hands of the man who I believe is primarily responsible for our awful financial position. Increasingly it is becoming clear that so much hinges on Sam Hammam/Langston accepting an offer which would mean the loan notes debt we’ve been lumbered with disappeared off the club’s accounts. A few weeks ago, I expressed my optimism that a settlement was coming sooner rather than later, but, to use media speak, sources close to Sam Hammam (no names, no pack drill!) are saying that the deal is off because the Malaysian investors, effectively, moved the goalposts by withdrawing an earlier offer of a one off payment and replacing it with one that included payment in instalments. Whether this is true or not, I haven’t a clue, but it might be that settlement of the Langston debt is some way off yet and the signs are that any conversion of debt into equity by Viuncent Tan will have to wait until that happens.
It could be therefore that my fears about us being left with debts bigger than the ones which crippled Leeds and have forced Rangers into liquidation are groundless, but, even so, it’s been another miserable week for City fans with nothing happening on the transfer front to lift the spirits of those of us who are going to continue to attend games and want to see the team prosper. We have been linked with a couple of players – we are, reportedly in competition with Burnley for Derby’s centreback and captain Jason Shackell, who has been a good performer at this level for a number of years. Seemingly, Shackell would cost us £1 million, whereas Dundee United left back Paul Dixon would be a Bosman free transfer signing – we are, apparently, in a race for Leicester for him and I know little about him (the supporters of his current club seem to rate him though, if this thread on one of their messageboards is anything to go by). There is also some messageboard speculation that we are chasing Craig Bellamy again and, from the Malaysian investor’s perspective, I can see that they might think that signing him would be a good way of getting some supporters back onside, but I’m not aware of even any media stories hinting at such a thing occurring – no, it’s defenders that we keep getting linked with in the press as Malky Mackay presses on with his plans to have us playing 8-1-1 in 2012/13!
A few other things to finish with, the club announced plans to hold meetings with supporters groups and fans drawn at random from it’s database (hope that does actually happen and it doesn’t just end up as being another chance for the “usual suspects” to perform) about future plans for the ground, kit, crest etc. Before people get too excited, this piece on the official site makes it clear that “Discussions on kit and crest developments will be based on existing parameters” and, seemingly, City are obliged to set up such a group under new UEFA rules. However, at least it’s a discussion point on the issue which has annoyed and divided supporters so much and, as I said on a City messageboard last week, a door that had been firmly closed is at least slightly ajar now. Also, our first competitive match in 12/13 will be at Sixfields Stadium against League Two team Northampton Town in the First Round of the League Cup with the tie likely to be played on the 14th or 15th August. Finally, I had no luck in my quest to prove the existence of our head of recruitment Iain Moody last week, but I will not stray from my mission and the hunt continues.