'Hammam. Stop moving the goalposts' says TG
By Michael Morris
Updated Thursday, 16th August 2012
Excellent report from today's AGM by Dave Sugarman.
Representing the football club on the top table were Chairman Dato Chan Tien Ghee, Chief Executive Alan Whiteley and Finance Director Doug Lee, along with local board members Steve Borley and Paul Guy. I would estimate that around fifty shareholders were in attendance.
After shaking the hands of everyone present, the Chairman opened the meeting at 11:00am and the formal business of the day was both conducted and concluded almost immediately. The shareholders quickly voted to accept the annual reports and financial statements for the year ended 31 May 2011 and questions were then invited from the floor.
The questions asked and answers given were as follows:
The board was asked if it intended to make any formal statements about the events during a difficult summer period.
Although he didn't answer the question directly, TG said that he and his Malaysian colleagues had no intention of either hurting or disrespecting anyone when they introduced the recent changes to the club's kit and badge. While appealing for everyone unite behind the team, he said "we may have issues, just as there are issues in any family, but we must keep our heads and pull together to help the players take this club to the promised land."
The Chairman stated that it pains him to lose even one fan and he would be doing everything within his powers to win back the support of those who have walked away from the club as a result of the re-branding exercise.
TG was asked if he believed the introduction of the re-branding plans could have been handled better by the club.
He said that, in hindsight, the situation could have been dealt with differently and said that he should take full personal responsibility for the way things turned out. However, he added that the club's hand had been forced to a large degree by the way in which information was leaked into the public domain before officials had been ready to release it, so the circumstances had been difficult to deal with.
The board was asked if they have taken any steps to plug the leaks which seem to have been originating from the club in recent years.
TG replied by suggesting that there are leaks in every organisation, including the highest levels of government, and that stopping those leaks is extremely difficult. He said there isn't much the officials can do about the situation that they aren't doing already, although he added the club is continually striving to become more professional in the way that it goes about all aspects of its business.
The Chairman was asked to give an update on the latest situation regarding the Langston loan notes debt.
He said the report which had appeared in this morning's South Wales Echo was an accurate reflection of the situation. TG confirmed that a fresh settlement offer has been made to Langston and the club is waiting for a response.
He then made an impassioned plea for Sam Hammam to get around the table and resolve this issue once and for all for the benefit of the football club. TG said: "If you really do love Cardiff City like you keep saying you do, then be a man and do what is right for the club. Don't keep moving the goalposts. Work with us and help us to put this club in a better and stronger position."
A shareholder then brought up the subject of the club's ongoing debt levels and queried a couple of entries in 2010/11 accounts, including an outstanding tax bill.
Finance Director Doug Lee stated that the club is now wholly compliant with HMRC both in terms of payments and deadlines, and said that has been the case ever since the Malaysian-based investors came onboard. He added that the club's debt levels should alter considerably once the long-standing Langston issue has finally been sorted out.
The subject of the recent Keep Cardiff Blue campaign meeting at the Municipal Club was raised by a shareholder, who described the kind of threats and foul-mouthed abuse that those opposed to the re-branding exercise had been subjected to on that occasion. He then outlined some of the reasons why he is personally opposed to the change from blue to red.
TG stated that he doesn't condone any form of threats or intimidation under any circumstances.
Chief Executive Alan Whiteley said the re-branding was a particularly difficult issue to deal with for everyone as the subject is so emotive. He said he fully appreciated that, for some supporters, there is simply no middle ground and nothing any of the officials can say will change their minds. However, he added that the club doesn't want to lose any fans if it can avoid doing so. Therefore, he will continue to attempt to answer any questions that supporters have and is happy to do that on a one-to-one basis.
The board was asked if anything can be done to improve the public transport links between the ciy centre and the Cardiff City Stadium on match days.
Alan Whiteley referred the question to Stadium Manager Wayne Nash, who explained that the club is currently in talks with Cardiff Bus to provide a new shuttle service from the city centre to the stadium. He said that Arriva Trains Wales are unwilling to utilise Ninian Park Halt at certain times during match days for safety reasons and are encouraging fans to use Grangetown Station instead, but the Chief Executive gave an undertaking to continue to press the train providers for a more satisfactory arrangement.
TG was asked under what circumstances he and the Malaysian investors would leave the club.
He replied that if they had been planning to leave at any stage, they would have done so during the darkest of times, but these are bright times. He added that there are times ahead which he believes will be brighter still.
The Chairman was asked about the alleged plans to increase the stadium's capacity.
TG said any plans going forward need a degree of optimism and, therefore, the board intends to be ready to expand the stadium as and when it is necessary to do so.
The board was asked what the football club had gained by the Cardiff Blues rugby club returning to the Cardiff Arms Park.
TG replied that it has been a win/win situation, as the rugby club wanted to leave and the football club's owners believed the stadium should be used exclusively for football. He said the rugby club had been very reasonable during the negotiations and although their departure will have an impact on revenue, it was necessary in terms of the football club's future plans.
The Chief Executive was asked to give an update regarding the plans for a new training ground.
He said that several sites had been identified and the club is currently working with the council on a feasibility study. He added that the new facilities are high on the club's list of priorities, particularly as the manager asks about them almost every day. He anticipated that construction work should start on the project within twelve months and the facilities should be completed within two years.
The Chairman was asked what sort interest Cardiff City Football Club currently generates in the Far East.
TG claimed that 3.2 million people in Malaysia watched the Carling Cup final, and the majority were supporting the Bluebirds. He said the team's replica shirt sales in his country far exceed those of QPR, who are also Malaysian-owned, and plenty of other Premier League clubs too. He stated that the club employs six permanent staff in Malaysia on its grassroots football and education project and interest there is growing steadily, but will increase considerably if and when the team reaches the top flight. He added that interest in the club in South Korea has increased dramatically with the signing of Kim Bo Kyung, but interest throughout the Far East would boom if the club can gain promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.
TG was asked if he considers the team to be the Bluebirds or the Dragons.
He replied that as far as he is concerned, Cardiff City are the Bluebirds and always will be.
Alan Whiteley was asked if the club will be employing a drummer during home matches this season.
He said that although the drum had been popular with a percentage of supporters, the club will be guided by what the majority want.
In the final question of the day, the board was asked what has happened to the large digital clocks which appear to have gone missing from inside the stadium.
Alan Whiteley said the Cardiff Blues had taken the clocks with them when they returned to the Arms Park, but new ones are on order.
The Chairman closed the meeting at 12:03am, at which point the board members left the top table and joined the shareholders on the floor for refreshments and a series of informal conversations.