Local media offering little support
31 October ~ Any week that starts with an 8-0 humiliation isn’t perhaps the best way to prepare for a match against one of our most disliked neighbours, or an ideal starting point for new manager Gary Rowett. Birmingham City are famously dysfunctional, but despite years of being held in contempt by the club’s owners, Blues fans have found the events of the last seven days embarrassing, degrading and confusing in equal measure.
Supporters of other clubs will be aware of our plight. Previous owner, and former hairdresser, Carson Yeung is in prison after being convicted of money laundering. In 2012-13, as Blues fell down the League and the best players were sold off for a song, previous chairman Peter Pannu trousered nearly £1 million in salaries and consultancy fees. Blues’s Hong Kong based parent company – BIHL – have just declared £11m losses but appear unwilling to sell the club lest it impact on their Hong Kong stock exchange listing or personal reputation of senior shareholders.
Of course, many clubs have preposterous owners and fans generally have little influence over how their club is run. But our helplessness is made worse by the appalling reluctance of the local media to carry out any scrutiny of Birmingham’s ownership structure and the indifference of the various football authorities towards our plight.
Neither the Birmingham Mail nor any of the region’s radio and TV stations have made any attempt to delve into Yeung’s business practices or press new club director Panos Pavlakis (who is related by marriage to Yeung) to answer questions that might actually resolve who owns our club, who runs it and what, if any, plans they have. In place of journalism, the Birmingham Mail are satisfied that asking fans to submit pictures of tattoos or, bizarrely, pictures of pets dressed in club colours, constitutes substantial coverage of the club. The supine nature of the local paper plus Radio WM, Midlands Today et al is both a disgrace and embarrassment to their profession.
The Football League, FA and Premier League have all dismissed fans’ concerns, and local MPs remain grossly indifferent to supporters’ requests for them to show an interest in the club. That fans have any sense of what is going on behind the scenes is purely down to the investigations conducted by the Often Partisan website and Blues Supporters' Trust. This vital, usually thankless, work is the only way fans have any modicum of knowledge on the club’s finances, shifting personalities and Byzantine ownership structure.
Former Blues defender Rowett, who took Burton Albion into the League Two play-offs twice on similarly limited resources, is a welcome replacement for the hapless Lee Clark. Rowett spent two good seasons at Blues and his determination and professed affinity with the club has made a great first impression on Blues fans. Despite falling attendances and the morgue-like atmosphere at St Andrew’s, Blues fans hold true to the belief that there is a tangible “something” about our club that differentiates us from others in the crowded West Midlands. However whether any manager will be able to succeed with such limited players and such background uncertainty remains to be seen. Chris Sanderson