Poor management, failed takeovers and petty squabbling – the struggles facing Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion, Oxford United and Barnet

“It is almost as if the club has forgotten how to do anything successfully,” one recent visitor to a Cardiff City internet bulletin board re­marked. That includes selling it to a member of the Sullivan family, which has been a reg­ular agenda item since the early 1990s, when David Sullivan first expressed an inter­­est.

He then bought an interest in Birmingham City from Samesh Kumar, who moved on to Ninian Park in 1995, pledging to reach the Premiership in five years (“If I didn’t think I could do that I wouldn’t be in football”).

Back came Sullivan in October 1998, with an-other takeover bid which came to nothing. Sullivan was approached yet again last sum­mer by the new chairman Steve Borley and announced his own five-year plan to join the board and move the club to the Millennium Stadium. However, he chose not to invest in Card-iff while restricted to a ten per cent shareholding by his involvement with Bir-mingham.

Borley is held in reason-ably high regard by most fans. He is a frequent contributor to debates on City’s websites, which may in­dicate a welcome openness or simply the cus­tomary ego (“I started with nothing and built my company into the big-gest mechanical ser­vices contractor in south Wales,” he remarks. “Not bad for a Llanrumney boy.”)

The latest move to invest in the club came from Sullivan’s brother Clive, but foundered in February on the pre­sence of Kumar, who has a 38 per cent share­holding. The bid would have put £2.5 million into the club but also reduced the value of Kumar’s shares. Since he initially borrowed the money to buy the club on the security of those shares, his action to block the deal may have been understandable, though that’s not how Borley saw it.

“Since he [Kumar] resigned as chairman he has found it tough to handle the fact that I am now the chairman and he is not,” Borley said. Fans await further moves from either Sullivan, or both, though it might have to wait until the club is worth even less than at present.

City would find stiff competition for a trophy for petty squabbling in West Bromwich, where the struggle between for­mer chairman Tony Hale and pretender to the throne Paul Thompson was finally resolved in the latter’s favour in February. This followed a year-long dispute since Thompson resigned from the board and began moves to remove Hale. That led to a bitter extraordinary general meeting in the summer and a libel action brought by Thompson, which Hale eventually settled out of court.

Hale stepped down as chairman after the knockdown sale of Kevin Kilbane to Sunderland in December, paving the way for Thompson to take over, with the blessing of most fans. He com-mented that Albion were “very fortunate” to have Brian Little at the club. “We feel we’ll be able to work together to help the club move forward,” he said. Two months later, in time-honoured Baggies style, Little was sack­ed, complaining of boardroom interference.

In October we reported that “things look rosier than for some time” at Oxford United. Needless to say, they have since taken a turn for the worse, thanks to a High Court judge’s decision on March 17 to grant a judicial review into planning permission granted for the cinema which holds the financial key to the completion of the half-built stadium at Minchery Farm. That will take place in the summer.

The good news is that chairman Firoz Kassam is staying, having suggested he might bale out. The bad news is that Oxford only have permission from the League to use the Manor Ground next season if work has restarted on the new stadium.

Barnet find themselves in a similar position. They were led to believe they would be allowed to stay at Underhill with a capacity of only 5,500 (below the League limit) while a new stadium was built at Hendon. However, the Football Licensing Authority is now threatening to reduce the capacity at Underhill still further.

Of course things could be worse for both clubs. They could be Crystal Palace.

From WSC 159 May 2000. What was happening this month

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