Craig Bellamy’s move to Cardiff City this week surprised pretty much everyone, with the established Premier League striker dropping down a division to play for his home-town club, despite offers to stay in the Premier League.
The arrival of Bellamy has bolstered the Bluebirds’ already strong squad, giving manager Dave Jones his best chance yet to achieve promotion to the Premier League, after last season’s play-off final defeat to Blackpool. However the loan move may well prove to be a poisoned chalice for the Welsh side, as those who the club owe significant amounts of money to are left reeling as Cardiff are able to bring in a Premier league star despite their financial predicament.
The Bluebirds have previously faced four winding-up orders, which is a legal avenue for parties owed money to retrieve it via the disposal of assets, which for a football club could be the most valuable of assets, the stadium. It could be argued that the winding-up petition has been misused lately in the post-Portsmouth panic. Many Football League clubs have been in court recently facing wind-up petitions, although the last club to be wound up in the courts was then Blue Square Premier side Chester City, as football clubs in significant debt possibly gain preferential treatment to normal companies in the courts.
Cardiff owe Scottish outfit Motherwell £175,000 in an unpaid transfer fee, after the signing of Well’s Paul Quinn. The Fir Park club issued a writ to the Championship club at Hamilton Sheriff Court last Friday, only for Cardiff to fail to attend or post a defence. Cardiff signed Well captain Quinn for around £300,000 in July last year, paying part of the fee up-front, with the rest in staggered payments which Cardiff have failed to pay.
Whilst Bluebirds Chief Executive Gethin Jenkins claims that the SPL side are just jumping on the publicity bandwagon, Motherwell’s ire is understandable. With Cardiff possessing a wealth of playing assets in the likes of Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and Peter Whittingham, it is hard for the Football League to be able to justify the club signing Craig Bellamy and Jason Koumas on loan amongst other big-name transfers.
Jenkins claimed that their debt with Motherwell is being settled, and that the acquisition of Bellamy on a season-long loan makes economic sense for the club, therefore being able to pay off their creditors. Cardiff, who it was revealed on Wednesday had paid £313,000 in agents fees last season, had been under a transfer embargo preventing them from signing any players from early July of this year until the start of this month.
Cardiff are somewhat notorious in the Football League for poor financial management, with the club coming close to extinction under the chairmanship of former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale. If Cardiff do fail to pay off the debt owed to Motherwell, which equates to about four weeks of Bellamy’s wages at Manchester City, it is expected others who the Bluebirds are in significant debt to will add more pressure on the club to pay up or face more legal battles. Earlier this month, after a long running saga with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the club finally settled its £1.9million tax debt, meaning the club narrowly avoided being placed in administration, avoiding the ten point penalty that comes with it.
Fans in the Football League will merely argue for tougher sanctions on the club. With most clubs in the Football League living within their means, Cardiff spend money they don’t have on top players, creating an uneven playing field.