From the local chippy to class hotels, Firoz Kassam has been a success in business. Martin Brodestsky evaluates his time as chairman of Oxford United
Distinguishing features Kassam is a self-made multi-millionaire, with three hotels in London, and he has just received planning permission for another one in Oxford. Kassam came to England from Tanzania as a teenager and worked his way up from the local chippy until he got to where he is now – with money to waste on a no-hope lower division football club with delusions of grandeur.
Habitat Kassam is now seen at the Manor on a daily basis. Has been known to attend some of the more obscure away games, leading supporters to suspect that he is in danger of becoming a fan.
What use is he? Kassam single-handedly rescued the club, virtually wiping out its colossal debts. Hopefully, he will reach an agreement with Oxford City Council to build a multiplex cinema, hotel and leisure facilities adjacent to the new stadium at Minchery Farm. There is even a likelihood that he’ll be able to get the empty shell of the ground completed some time before the next millennium. However, stories of a massive cash injection into the squad have so far proved to be wildly exaggerated.
Who remembers his birthday? Some United supporters remain suspicious but the majority are now convinced of Kassam’s integrity. On the other hand, Malcolm Shotton, who left the club “by mutual consent” on the back of five successive defeats and rumours about thuggish behaviour, has probably crossed him off his Christmas card list.
Quote/Unquote His announcement that “I intend to be around for a very long time” drew extended applause at a recent open meeting, although a multitude of other statements about dates for the resumption of work on the stadium have so far all been unfounded. He was also reported as promising to invest £2 million, which turned out to be for running costs and wages, not the hoped-for players.
Other offences to be taken in to consideration Since Kassam took over, there has been little information volunteered by the club about the status of negotiations over the new stadium scheme. This is a worry for supporters who have had to put up with the likes of the Maxwell family and Tim Midgeley. So far Kassam appears not to be in this mould, but better PR wouldn’t go amiss.
From WSC 157 March 2000. What was happening this month