Sport Writer Harry Shersby-Wignall reports as unrest grows at St. Andrews due to financial troubles and disappointing performances
Birmingham City were hit with a nine-point deduction last season following a breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) limits, which ultimately derailed their season. Fast forward ten months, and FFP has again reared its ugly head, much like the Grim Reaper; scythe in hand, knocking on the St Andrews door.
Since being introduced into the Championship by the EFL in 2011, Birmingham City became the first side to fall victim of FFP. Championship clubs are not permitted to record losses of over £39 million over a three-year period in order to stay aligned with the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability (P&S) ruling.
Following a takeover by the superlatively named Chinese company, ‘Trillion Trophy Asia’, a new vision was created for the Blues – promotion to the Premier League. The club hired and fired two stalwarts of English football – Gianfranco Zola and Harry Redknapp, whilst equipping them both with large amounts of money for transfers, most of which severely underperformed and instead of pushing for promotion, dragged them to the brink of relegation to League One.
Two seasons ago, Birmingham paid the price for the unorganised, underwhelming and underperforming signings made in previous seasons as they exceeded a £39 million loss over three seasons. They were charged by the EFL in July 2018, handed a transfer embargo and threatened with further punishment. After a successful season with Garry Monk at the helm, City were flirting with the play-offs up until March, when the EFL announced that the Club would be deducted nine points immediately, for breaching P&S guidelines. Consequently, the Blues plummeted down the table and finished the season 17th.
Following another rollercoaster season at St Andrews, the summer was to be a time to recharge and reset, with a promising squad and one of England’s best young managers in the hot seat.
However, nothing is ever that easy for Birmingham City. Monk was surprisingly sacked after falling out with club CEO, Xuandong Ren. Top goal scorer, Che Adams, the then-record signing, Jota and captain, Michael Morrison all followed Monk out of the door, to the anger of the Bluenoses.
A new philosophy was adopted. Assistant manager, Pep Clotet was appointed as ‘interim caretaker head coach’, whilst an influx of Spanish coaches was instilled to get the Blues playing entertaining and attacking football. As expected, these decisions backfired and as of now, they have been locked into another season of midtable mediocrity.
To rub salt in the wounds, the EFL announced that the Blues had been charged again – this time for not complying to a business plan set by the EFL to avoid breaching FFP rules and once more face the prospect of a points deduction.
As the Club also published their worrying accounts, exposing their debt of £94 million to the holding company, fans have come to the end of their tether with Ren and what they consider his inability to run a football club alongside his seemingly erratic decisions.
I attended the Blues’ draw with Cardiff over the weekend and asked Pep Clotet, post-match, whether the latest EFL charge was limiting the Club’s transfer activity, this transfer window, and if he was aware of planned protests from fans towards Ren. The club refused to comment.
Whatever happens now, questions must be asked of Ren and Trillion Trophy Asia as the club continues to freefall into mediocrity – a shadow of a once successful Premier League, trophy-winning Club.