Meeting with Peter Ridsdale and Alan Flitcroft, 1/10/2008

Last updated : 01 October 2008 By Dave Sugarman
Present were City fans Annis Abraham Jnr, Wayne Anderson, Nigel Harris, Dave Hicks, Kevin Millward, Keith Morgan, Peter Morgan, Mike Morris, Sam Murphy and myself. Representing the club were Chairman Peter Ridsdale, Chief Operating Officer Alan Flitcroft and Media/Ticket Office Manager Julian Jenkins. South Wales Echo reporter Mark Bloom was also present.

In advance of the meeting I prepared a list of thirty questions, including many which had either been e-mailed to me or posted on this site's message board in recent days. The questions and the answers given during a meeting which lasted more than two and half hours were as follows:

1) In the Chairman's circular to shareholders dated December 2006 he said the club proposed to raise approximately £6.5 million by means of a new share issue. How much did that share issue eventually raise and how was the money used?

Peter Ridsdale replied that the share issue raised a figure in the region of £6 million, which includes a further recent investment by Keith Harris's company Seymour Pierce Ltd. £3 million of the money raised was used to fund the stadium build while the rest has been used to meet the club's running costs over the last two years.

2) Are shares still available for purchase?

The Chairman said the sale of shares has been temporarily suspended and that club officials have been meeting as recently as today on this particular issue. He indicated that the board believe the value of existing shares in the club has risen considerably in recent times in line with the value of the new stadium project. He suggested that new shares should be available for purchase soon and will probably cost around two and a quarter times the value of the shares that were sold as a part of the last share issue.

3) People have been speculating that the recent appointment of Keith Harris as a non-executive director signals that the club is being primed for a sale. Is there any truth in that suggestion?

Peter Ridsdale answered that the club is set to benefit from Keith Harris's involvement as a non-executive board member and an investor as the club doesn't have to pay him any consultancy fees for the work he is doing. He said Cardiff City is effectively getting his services and his expertise for free. The Chairman said that Harris is currently looking to attract new investors to the club as opposed to new owners, although he didn't rule out a future sale if he and the rest of the board felt the right sort of people had come in with a suitable offer.

4) What work will Alan Flitcroft be carrying out in his role as the club's new Chief Operating Officer?

Alan Flitcroft talked a little about his background and said he will be working on a variety of different projects for the club. He explained he will be taking on areas of work that were previously the responsibility of former Finance Director Tony Brown, who left the club recently. He added that he will also be working on a number of issues regarding the new stadium project and the Langston loan notes, and said that he will be doing some of the work the Chairman has previously had to do. Peter Ridsdale said that Alan's appointment brought a great deal more financial and marketing expertise to Ninian Park and that was essential in order for the club to maximise the business opportunities that are arising as a result of the forthcoming move to the new stadium.

5) Has the club been in negotiations with any new investors recently?

Peter Ridsdale said the club hasn't been directly involved in any negotiations with new investors recently but he added that documents have been prepared in a bid to attract new investment. He underlined that Keith Harris is working on this area at the moment.

6) What is the latest state of play in the Langston saga? Has an out-of-court settlement been reached or is more court action likely?

Alan Flitcroft said that negotiations with Langston are ongoing. He revealed that the club expects to be able to make a positive announcement on this matter in the very near future.

7) The Chairman recently told the club's AGM that he was in talks with Michael Isaac over an outstanding loan of £1.5 million, which is apparently due to be repaid to the former Vice-Chairman in December of this year. Were those talks successful or will the club be paying Mr Isaac in December as per the original agreement?

Peter Ridsdale said that amicable talks with Michael Isaac on this matter are on-going and are set to continue next week.

8) Does the club currently owe PMG any money? If so, how much is owed and how is that money going to be repaid?

The Chairman stated that the club owes PMG £9 million, which was provided by Paul Guy and Mike Hall's company in order to make sure the stadium project went ahead. He added the company has provided a further £2.3 million of financial guarantees in relation to the House of Sport aspect of the development. He said PMG's money is secured against future income from the Premier Club seating at the new stadium.

9) Why were the Cardiff Blues hierarchy involved in the recent topping-out ceremony at the new stadium? As they are supposed to be tenants and not co-owners, why were they present?

Peter Ridsdale said the Blues' officials were invited to attend to the ceremony along with representatives of the local council merely out of courtesy as they will be playing at the stadium once it is up and running.

10) The figures involved in the Cardiff Blues' rental agreement at the new stadium have never been made public. Is it possible to reveal approximately how much that deal is worth to the football per annum?

The Chairman said he was unable to reveal the exact figures involved in the Cardiff Blues rental agreement as the details of the contract are confidential.

11) It has been rumoured that the take-up on the Premier Club seating at the new stadium has so far been disappointing. Is there any truth in those rumours?

Alan Flitcroft said the number of Premier Club seats sold so far is close to what he would expect for a stadium that is still some months away from completion. However, he revealed commission agents Bastion are no longer in charge of sales and added that they have picked up quite dramatically recently following a revamp to the sales effort.

12) Is there any news regarding the naming rights at the new stadium?

Peter Ridsdale said there was no news to report.

13) Existing season ticket holders have been given previous assurances by the club that they will be able to obtain like-for-like seats at the new stadium. Have any plans been put in place to make sure that happens?

Julian Jenkins indicated that plans are currently being put in place in this regard and the details are likely to be revealed in January 2009.

14) The club's Ambassadors were under the impression that they had been given an opportunity to choose this season's kit via a vote on the official website. The most popular design was a replica of the one worn by the team in the mid to late-Seventies. However, when the new shirts finally appeared they looked absolutely nothing like the one chosen by the Ambassadors. How did that situation arise?

Peter Ridsdale said that Joma did design a kit option which was closer to the Seventies-style shirt, but the club's management weren't entirely happy with it so the current design was chosen instead. He added that the club is currently working with Joma on producing a shirt for next season which is likely to be closer to the one the Ambassadors chose.

Julian Jenkins talked about the colour of the shirt and showed those present an original 1927 FA Cup final shirt which is in a case in the boardroom. He revealed that Joma had taken a swatch from that shirt to ensure the colour of the current shirt matched it, and having now seen the original shirt in close-up I can confirm the colours are almost identical.

Alan Flitcroft gauged opinion about the possibility of the club having a white away shirt for next season. Some of those present were in favour while others were opposed. He indicated that the club will do some market research amongst the supporters before deciding on what colour next year's away shirt will be.

15) The fees involved in the transfers of Chris Gunter to Spurs and Glenn Loovens to Celtic have never been confirmed. What were those fees?

Peter Ridsdale revealed that Gunter was sold to Spurs for an initial fee of £1 million with another £500,000 payable in future add-ons, while Loovens was sold to Celtic for a fee of £2.5 million, although £600,000 went straight to Feyenoord due to a sell-on clause.

16) How much did the club pay Wolves for striker Jay Bothroyd and how are the payments staged?

The Chairman said the fee for Bothroyd was £350,000, which will be paid in two annual instalments of £175,000 each. He also revealed that Gabor Gyepes had a clause in his contract at Northampton which allowed him to leave the club for a fee of £300,000 over three annual payments of £100,000, but Northampton accepted £200,000 from City in one lump sum instead.

17) When Glenn Loovens was sold to Celtic in mid-August, Peter Ridsdale stated on the club's website that all of the money raised by the sale was going straight to the manager for team strengthening. Why has so little of it been spent since?

Peter Ridsdale said that some of the £1.9 million raised by the Loovens sale has been used to buy Gabor Gyepes from Northampton and to help fund Eddie Johnson's wages as a part of his loan deal. He added that further money would have been made available to the manager if he had requested it and said that money will be available in January if the players the manager wants become available.

18) Was there a loan fee involved in bringing Eddie Johnson to the club from Fulham?

Peter Ridsdale said there was no loan fee involved. He explained that as opposed to pay a loan fee the club has agreed to pay all of Johnson's wages while he is on loan here.

19) Rumours have circulated that the club is paying Johnson somewhere between £15,000 and £20,000 a week. Are those rumours accurate?

The Chairman refused to be drawn on the level of the player's wages and said he wouldn't talk about any players' earnings in a meeting such as this one (I can confirm that he has never revealed the wages other players are on when asked similar questions in previous meetings).

20) Can Fulham recall Johnson, and can City send him back to Fulham at any point if Dave Jones wishes?

Peter Ridsdale said Fulham can recall Johnson in January, but that City cannot choose to send him back before the end of his season-long loan spell.

21) What was the truth behind the Alexei Smertin fiasco? It was reported that Dave Jones was in London for a work permit hearing and yet the player himself told the press that he never had any intention of joining the club, so what actually went on?

The Chairman said Fulham agreed to let Smertin join the club and his advisor indicated that he was willing to sign for Cardiff. The club made an application for a work permit, which was initially refused. He said he and Dave Jones travelled to London to attend an appeal against that decision but were told by his advisor shortly before the hearing that the player didn't want to sign for the club.

22) Is it fair to say that Dave Jones banked on having Robbie Fowler in his squad for this season and Fowler's decision to walk away left the manager's summer plans in tatters?

Peter Ridsdale said that neither he nor Dave Jones had banked on Fowler staying at the club as such an outcome was never certain.

23) During the close-season, Dave Jones said he wanted to operate with four senior strikers this year. If that's the case, why was Steve Thompson given away to Championship rivals Burnley on a free transfer, leaving only three strikers at the club?

The Chairman denied that club has only three senior strikers and said the manager regards Paul Parry as a player who can adequately fill the role of striker whenever required.

24) Has any money raised by player sales during the last two years been used to clear a percentage of the Langston loan notes debt?

Peter Ridsdale answered this question with an emphatic no.

25) Has any money raised by player sales during the last two years been used to fund the stadium project?

The Chairman said money raised by player sales has indeed been used to provide funding for various aspects of the stadium project such as legal fees and staffing, and added that legal fees of over £600,000 have also been paid out in relation to the Langston court case. He said it was necessary to take this money out of the sums earned by player sales.

26) It was recently announced in the press that the club has reached an out-of-court settlement with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink over his contract dispute. How much did that settlement cost Cardiff City?

Peter Ridsdale said he was unable to answer that question as the settlement was subject to a confidentiality clause.

27) Is there any likelihood of a loan signing before the emergency window shuts?

The Chairman said loan signings were only likely in the event of injuries to key players.

28) How does this season's wage bill compare to last season's?

Alan Flitcroft revealed that the wage bills for 2007/08 and 2008/09 are almost identical. Peter Ridsdale explained that while several of the club's larger earners had moved on during the summer, a number of senior players had signed new contracts and some of those involved significant pay rises as the players concerned had been relatively lowly paid under the terms of their previous contracts but were now established and sought-after Championship performers. Kevin McNaughton and Roger Johnson were offered up as two examples of the players the Chairman was referring to.

29) Immediately following the final whistle at Wembley, Dave Jones told the press:

"We have done remarkably well to reach the FA Cup final and we must use this as a springboard to kick on. If we don't push on from here, the people running this football club want shooting."

Do you think the club has moved on since that Wembley appearance or do you want shooting?

Peter Ridsdale said he believes the club has indeed moved on since Wembley and continues to on a daily basis. He pointed to the work on the stadium going so well, the fact that the training ground is nearing completion, the engagement of two new board members and a team on the field that he considers is better than last year's.

30) What would the Chairman regard as a successful 2008/09 season for Cardiff City Football Club and what would he constitute as a failure?

Peter Ridsdale said relegation would be a failure, a mid-table finish would be acceptable but a disappointment, while a play-off place would be a success, although he added that he feels the club would be punching above its current weight if it was to secure a play-off spot given the size of some of the clubs City are competing with in the Championship and the finances they have at their disposal. The Chairman said that he will also regard finding a solution to the Langston saga and getting the new stadium finished as successes.