Club Focus – Birmingham City – Future unknown

From October 24 to April 10, Birmingham’s season was relatively perfect – a 16 game unbeaten run, a consistent top half position, excitement at the future and a new board all meant Birmingham’s season had gone as well as could have been hoped for.

However, football is not a fairytale and in recent weeks Birmingham have been given two shocks. The first, a heavy 5-1 defeat to Manchester City, can be easily eradicated from their memory, but the other will be a constant burden over the minds of fans until the board take the necessary steps to remove such worries. Last Thursday morning, reports emerged from a London-based investment bank, Seymour Pierce, that shone a new light on the activities of Birmingham’s new board.

In essence, Seymour Pierce have ammounced that Carson Yeung’s company, Birmingham International Holdings, had failed to pay a fee that had been contractually agreed. The fee in today’s business world is only a mere £2.2m, and was to be received by Seymour Pierce on the premise that Yeung’s company completed a successful takeover of the Midlands club. However, it appears that Yeung has attempted to evade payment. In a statement, Pierce said: “Seymour Pierce advised Carson Yeung and his company, which was then called Grandtop and is now called Birmingham International Holdings, a Hong Kong company, and they advised them on the takeover of Birmingham City and they were due to pay Seymour Pierce a success fee for £2.2m.They didn’t pay it. Seymour Pierce has gone to court, and won the High Court case. The Hong Kong company was given 14 days to pay the money. That expired on Monday. They haven’t paid so in effect they are in contempt of court and Seymour Pierce has taken the necessary steps to effectively take control of Birmingham City to recover the debt.”

Although not all of the intricacies have been released, it seems that they are not particularly necessary and no matter what happens in subsequent events, this whole affair is a damning indictment on Birmingham’s board. On their arrival to the club, they were seen as a new board that had the clubs best intentions at hand and would be able to remove the troubles that had blighted the previous reigns over the club.

In the intervening days from the announcement of alleged financial discrepancies, Birmingham’s Yeung has taken steps to assure fans that he will not take the club into fiscal difficulties and that is here for the long-term. In an interview with Skysports, Yeung said of his arrival at the club: “I was in a catch-22 situation. Fans wanted to know who this Chinese guy was, and what my commitment is. Had I not indicated my intention, people would have said I’m reluctant. I emphasise that the intention to invest is still there.” This investment Yeung speaks of will be vitally important to the sustained development of Birmingham. If Yeung does invest smartly then City can continue to improve their squad. He continued: “But to talk about specific amounts of money, in hindsight, I can see that wasn’t the best thing to do for any number of reasons. We learnt one lesson: suddenly prices shot up. Thankfully, the owner seems to have realised that he made a disastrous mistake of saying how much money was available.

Yeung seems to be intent on turning Birmingham into a business model, based on American successes. He is aiming to sign a Chinese player in January in a bid to promote Birmingham as a worldwide brand – indeed, he is attempting to break into a market that, if successfully penetrated, will reap massive rewards for Birmingham. Quite who he will look to sign – and, indeed, who will be in charge of the transfer – remains unclear. Yeung intimated that manager Alex McLeish will be given the final say in any acquisition but he appears to want a certain degree of influence. For McLeish, the situation could become vexatious should he not be given complete control over players coming into the club but, for now, it remains open as to what the future holds for Birmingham City.

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