WOTMT
Leaving Things to Chansiri
Wrote this piece for the paper fanzine which it will still appear in but the times mean it's good to publish it now

I start from the premise that football clubs are usually in better hands when the fans own and control them, but I recognise that in the crazy world of football finances at Championship level and above, that model struggles to hack it. Moneyed people (usually men) are the ones that tend to hold sway and a consequence of that is that it is a massive gamble on what type of owner you end up with. After Milan Mandaric’s ability to fund the club reached its limit he sold us on to Mr Chansiri who had no previous interest in football, he came from halfway across the world and a totally different business culture, and landed into the hurly-burly of the Championship. There is no doubt that he has thrown money, energy and commitment at the club in the pursuit of his dream of getting to the PL as quickly as possible, but has he run the club well? Has he been chasing our dream and vision for the club? Has he run it in the way we would want?

Since the late 1990’s our club has stagnated and then fallen backwards not just on the field but off it. After 20 years of this the whole infrastructure of the club needed upgrading and modernising – stadium, the pitch, training ground (probably a wholly new complex needed), the Megastore, marketing, and the football infrastructure in terms of good and knowledgeable people running it. What we actually got was a wholly new pitch, a scoreboard/advertising facility, some work on the training ground and a hotchpotch approach to football infrastructure, until Steve Bruce arrived, and eye wateringly high ‘pay on the day’ ticket prices that have been a PR disaster.

Never mind us being the only club in the EFL that resisted changes to new radio contract arrangements with the BBC, until finally giving way after yet more bad PR. We have also thrown lots of money at ageing players with little or no resale value, which has driven up playing costs without benefit since May 2016. The financial problems that ensued have resulted in the club not now owning its own stadium, and the ownership structure of Hillsborough and the club, being a myriad of separate companies registered across the world. Add to all this, two transfer embargoes and a communication and engagement style which appears to be inconsistent, high-handed and entirely reactive. Also, if you believe the stories you hear, a bit of a one-man band decision making wise. Executives have come and gone with regularity and without explanation. And now the club appears to be entrenched into fights with the council, the police, the SAG and the EFL. Is it all everybody else’s fault do we think? Yes, we had a trip to Wembley in 2016 that will live long in the memory but that was the high point that feels like it has been outweighed by all the other stuff.

Now we have been charged with misconduct by EFL due to breaches of FFP regulations that the club tried to avert through the ground sale and aforementioned changes to the ownership structure. I know the club may have an argument that EFL had already approved the accounts etc. and so it is unfair to charge the club now. But anyone who looks at the timing of the transactions related to the accounting year, the value of the ground sale itself and the fact that the money is actually being received over 8 years, can’t be shocked that these were always going to spark some questions at EFL. The problems, and EFL failings, at Bolton and Bury, and the unhappiness at some clubs over use of the ground sale loophole by us, Villa and Derby always meant that EFL might address it – the arrival of a new EFL Chair in Rick Parry may have been the final catalyst. And by the way, I don’t buy the argument that Parry the Liverpool fan is seeking revenge over SWFC for the Hillsborough Disaster as I have seen some people voice on Twitter – he’s just doing his job.

I suspect EFL have a fairly high probability of conviction test before embarking on prosecution of such cases given the cost and PR issues associated with them so I guess they fancy their chances of securing a conviction. Looking at it from the outside and having read the decision in the Birmingham City case I suspect we have to prepare for some level of sanction if found guilty – the sanction could change the context of the season totally. It is interesting to note that the EFL are appealing the level of sanction given to Bolton by a Disciplinary Commission over match cancellations as not being tough enough. Which is further evidence of EFL strengthening their regulatory role. What fun!

Do we still think Mr Chansiri’s reign at S6 has been a positive one? Personally, I think not. I think the time has come for him to move on, but where we would move on to is anyone’s guess. Who would buy the club right now? And would it be available at a price someone would be willing to pay? I could live with DC continuing to own the club if I had more confidence that executives who actually know the business of running a football club were in charge of decision making. But I have stopped holding my breath on that one. Money from an owner is helpful but a sound strategy being implemented by people who know what they are doing is more critical – the dosh might help accelerate things if used well but throwing it at a duff strategy usually doesn’t end well.

The club now faces a day in magistrates court on 19th December regarding the appeal against the prohibition order on the use of the Leppings Lane entrances, and then an EFL Disciplinary Commission at some date to be confirmed. They are pretty important events but I don’t feel confident about our club’s ability to win the day. At the moment I feel pretty dis-engaged from the club I have supported home and away for too many years than I care to remember, it doesn’t feel like something I feel part of just at the moment. Am I alone in feeling like this? Is everyone else on board with the Chansiri strategy? Is there is a groundswell of opinion for change? If there is, is it about time we started making our voices heard?

We will be happy to give space to all constructive opinions on these issues, either via the paper fanzine or the website at www.wotmt.co.uk. Please send any contributions to mail@warofthemonstertrucks.com

 

 

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09.12.2019
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