THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

20 April ~ Birmingham City return to London tonight for the first time since our unexpected, but fully deserved, Carling Cup final victory. While our Premier League status is by no means guaranteed, as we are now perhaps one victory from safety attention is turning towards the exciting, if somewhat bemusing, thought of playing in Europe. But this being Birmingham City, nothing is ever straightforward. Last week, the Premier League announced that it will ask the Blues board to explain its ownership structure and their ability to raise new money to fulfil the club's obligations.

This may be routine after the financial debacle of Portsmouth et al, but it has led to unsettling speculation that the FA and Premier League may deny us our Europa League place if we fail to demonstrate an ability to continue as a going concern. The club's liabilities currently exceed assets by more than £31 million and a recent share issue failed to raise an intended £17.3m.

Like everything else in the murky world of international business, our club's finances are difficult to understand or follow. Ostensibly, we are owned by BIH, a Cayman Islands registered company that is also listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Carson Yeung has a number of other interests – including the wonderfully named "Captain Wealth Ltd" and "Great Luck Management" – that appear to be either investment holding or property development companies. There are also rumours of gambling interests, mainly due to the role played by a Macau casino owner in underwriting the initial £57m purchase of the club.

Our acting chair, Peter Pannu, has asserted that such suggestions amount to "scare mongering" and point to money paid for players such as Ben Foster and Nikola Zigic as well bids for players such as Charles N'Zogbia. But few, if any, Blues fans really understand how our club finances are structured, or indeed know whether this is just another house of cards that will collapse if we are relegated.

Many Birmingham fans feel that this is a story whipped up by a media who veer between ignoring the Premier League's smaller clubs or patronising us with negative stereotypes. In a league that so actively embraces global capitalism, there are others who simply shrug their shoulders, explain that this is just the Chinese way of doing things and point to the debts of Manchester United, Chelsea and others. Nonetheless, questions over our ownership and finances remain. After 136 years of gross underachievement, it would be typical of Blues to come so close to Europe, only to have our the rug pulled from beneath our feet. Chris Sanderson

Comments (5)
Comment by jwatson1 2011-04-20 11:36:40

In what sense was Blues' Carling Cup Final victory 'fully deserved'? Unexpected, yes, hilarious too, but fully deserved? I'm not sure. They started the game well, but faded badly in the second half before the winner was handed to them on a plate.

Comment by Lincoln 2011-04-20 15:03:15

Not just for this article but are there any article pictures left which don't feature either a pound or dollar sign? Sign of the times.

Comment by donedmundo 2011-04-20 16:03:10

It breaks my heart to say this, as a Villa fan, but Blues were by far the better team in the League Cup Final. Arsenal had none of their usual fluency, seeming afraid to try anything in case it went wrong. If, as seemed likely at one point, the game had gone into extra time, then Arsenal might well have come into their own as Blues had put everything into the normal 90 minutes.
On the money question, it's time the FA got hold of this and stopped pussy-footing around. The accounts of all clubs, along with details of ultimate ownership, should be publicly available. No dodgy Cayman Islands holding companies. No impenetrable trusts. The source of all monies invested should be clearly visible. Better do it ow before SOCA gets involved!

Comment by madmickyf 2011-04-22 05:16:35

Oh Boo Hoo! I have no sympathy for Birmingham considering they were one of two clubs (Newcastle was the other) caught lying to Customs & Excise about VAT payments a few years back. The FA ordered an immediate inquiry which of course was then allowed to die a slow, silent death so that they could avoid the embarrasment of having to take action against 2 big clubs.

Comment by rckd 2011-04-29 02:42:01

As a Bluenose, I will be truly gutted if we don't get to play in Europe next season. I concur fully with the article - it's pretty much a 'don't count your chickens' situation once again with Blues.

I don't know much about any VAT payments - but then again I keep my head in the sand about anything financial. The financial side of the game is something I can't bring myself to take interest in, if only because of how depressing it all is.

Fingers crossed that it's all routine and above board - I can't say for sure, as I don't know (I daresay no-one on this website knows definitively either despite knowledge obtained from the tabloids). All I know is I'll be gutted if it falls apart - seeing Blues mixing in Europe has been my dream for so long and it'd be a wrench to have that pulled away from us.

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