BCFC: Response From Club
On Monday evening the club responded to the open letter sent by supporter groups a month ago. The response was made by the Chairman of Birmingham City Football Club, Wenging Zhao, and was published on the club’s website.
A copy of the response can be seen here
The open letter itself can be seen here
The response has already featured in local media and has received a lot of attention, provoking a mixed reaction. The supporter groups themselves have also now had an opportunity to consider and form a view on its content.
Firstly, the response is acknowledged by the supporter groups because it at least moves dialogue forward and offers a platform for further discussion. The lack of any meaningful communication from the club, and particularly from senior figures, has long been a major frustration and concern for supporters. So the fact that the chairman has now responded is a welcome step. And, we sincerely hope, an indication of an improved approach from the club.
The content, however, does not provide complete assurance that the serious problems facing the club, and which are the source of the concerns identified by supporters, will be resolved any time soon.
With regard to the creation of a Fan Advisory Committee (the word used by the Chairman, although “Board” is more commonly used for fan engagement elsewhere including within the recently published White Paper), the response is underwhelming. This matter has been live for many months. Indeed, representatives from Blues Trust met senior officials at the club over twelve months ago to share ideas and models from other clubs in the light of the Fan Led Review report published in November 2021. So to be told that only now will consideration be given internally is very disappointing. The club is so far behind the curve on fan engagement and Blues supporters are missing out.
Nevertheless, supporter groups will now redouble their efforts to assist the club to develop an appropriate Advisory Committee/Board, within a broader fan engagement strategy, as quickly as possible. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with club officials to get things started. Our belief is that fans will want to work constructively and supportively with the BCFC Board to make the best decisions for the club, not work against them. Supporters are an important part of the same Blues family after all and we are all in this together.
As far as an exit strategy is concerned, no comments are offered other than confirmation that talks are underway regarding an investment opportunity concerning a third party. The shield of “legal reasons” is used as the reason why. Whilst this is not entirely surprising, it is immensely frustrating that the plans of the parent company, BSHL, remain anything but clear. Supporter groups will continue to push for the club to be sold and the current campaign will continue.
The response then makes reference to the charges made by the EFL, which are formally acknowledged, and confirms that no club official has been charged. No further comments are offered though. And no mention is made of the second EFL investigation concerning the position of Mr Wang Yaohui and his involvement with the club.
Finally, mention is made in some detail about the repairs at the ground. This was not something that was specifically identified in the open letter sent back in February but, nonetheless, the update is cautiously welcome. Some clarity is offered and, importantly, a commitment to further progress the stand repairs once the current season ends. Helpful target dates are also included, one of which concerning consultation regarding the introduction of safe standing has already been delivered. The proof of this particular pudding will be in the eating of course, and it is not surprising that the general lack of trust with the club has generated a very sceptical public reaction so far.
The need for improved communication on the repairs and other matters is also acknowledged in the response from the Chairman. That is welcome but again, trust is in short supply because similar commitments have been made before and not followed through. Indeed, by way of example, there has been no further official update on the fire at Wast Hills last a week. Why not? Does the club not understand that this is a matter of real interest and concern to Blues fans? Actions speak louder than words, and a complete change in mindset is required. But we hope this time things will be different and we will continue to push hard for improved communication.
So, in summary:
- the response from Wenging Zhao is appreciated, but we hope it is the start of proper dialogue and not an attempt to mollify current supporter concerns;
- urgent work is required on the part of the club to develop a meaningful fan engagement framework, including the creation of a Fan Advisory Committee/Board with real purpose;
- the campaign to Sell The Club will continue at pace, including actions in Hong Kong;
- we will continue to monitor the EFL investigations closely and campaign strongly with the EFL to ensure that individuals, if found to be in breach, are punished and not the football club;
- the commitment to commence further Stadium repairs after the final home game of the season is taken at face value and welcomed, and we look forward to seeing the project timeline issued by the contractors in two weeks time.
As supporters, all we want is for our club to be the very best it can be. Well run, with honesty and integrity. And with proportionate investment that brings hope for a better future.
We believe supporters can and should have a part to play in securing that better future, and there are many individual Bluenoses who stand ready to do so. Supporters are not a threat to the well being of the club and Blues supporters in particular should not be regarded as such. But the club needs to share that view and engage meaningfully.
Over 3000 fans have so far signed the petition calling for the club to be sold. That demonstrates that many, many supporters share our view and feel very strongly that urgent change is required. We will continue to encourage supporters to unite together to secure that change.
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It still seems to me like a let’s tell the supporters what we think they want to hear ,but until there is action and definites then sadly I still despair at these owners,too many false promises for me kro
I’m sure he came out after the previous lot of protests and did something similar, give us a statement blah blah blah. I do though believe that the Kop and Tilton will get sorted in the summer as I think this could be a potential stumbling block concerning any sale of St Andrews if it’s not done. As for anything else coming from this board I take with a pinch of salt!!
He’s just saying things for the sake of saying them, I don’t think even he believes what he’s saying; all he wants is to prevent the embarrassment to himself, the board and the owners by thinking this scenario will halt fan protests. As Peter Bates says, you can’t believe anything until it actually happens because it’s all just hype, hoping to win over the fan base with false statements and promises, it’s been the same for the past eleven years or so.
The chairman needs to be pro-active not reactive, something he hasn’t managed to achieve as yet; spend money on St Andrews, spend money on Wast Hills and spend a decent amount of money on the squad then maybe we’ll start to believe him, up to now it’s just been one false dawn after another and his credit has run dry.
I appreciate that due to financial fair play cash is tight, so get rid of the underperforming over paid players who don’t turn up on match days and get someone in who would be proud to wear the shirt.
Because of the lack of trust most supporters have for the current owners, anything they say now is viewed by most sceptically. Maybe the funding for the Kop/ Tilton repairs are ring fenced, only time will tell on that one. Whilst l understand certain things for legal reasons have to remain confidential, we’ve had years and years of poor communication and the feeling of utter contempt. It does appear that the club only issues statements when either protests are gaining momentum or the supporters are becoming restless.
Let’s hope if we eventually get new owners that communication, engagement and transparency are amongst their priorities. KRO
Well done to all for continuing the fight and pushing for change. I’ve made my views clear on this page before. Only by pulling together do Blues fans have any chance at all of making headway. So you have my thanks for your efforts.
Some good points made in the response too. The communication issue is key for me. Or rather the lack of it. The Blues website is ok but it is full of easy, safe marketing and promotional stuff. Hard news about the affairs of the club is virtually non existent. The Wast Hills fire you mention is a case in point. But I can’t believe that the Chairman or owners in the Far East are solely responsible for that? It would be madness if they were. What about the senior management team? What are they doing? As officers they are conspicuous by their absence it seems to me. I’m beginning to think Dan Ivery was right when he wrote earlier this week that a complete clear out of management is required when a change of ownership does eventually come.