Report from the fans meeting with Peter Ridsdale

Last updated : 27 February 2008 By Michael Morris
Peter Ridsdale (PR) dealt with about 90% of the questions raised, with virtually all the rest fielded by Steve Borley. Suzanne only made a few comments when asked to by PR and Barry only responded when criticised about the poor standard of the official web site. I don`t recall Wayne making any comments relevant to the main questions asked, but he did make comment about the recently reported behaviour problems of a group of CCFC fans and its likely impact on the removal of bubble restrictions.

Where has the money gone?

i.e the money from the sale of Chopra , McLean and Gunter and the extra cup run TV and gate money

PR explained that the club`s cash resources were about £5m short of what they had budgeted for, caused by £3m shortfall in Premier seating income (the initial joining fees) they cannot yet access and £2m in pledged new share investment, both being held back by the Langston court case. Personally, I cannot see how it is sensible to budget for income in respect of seats not even ready for occupation until August next year, but PR says he is completely happy that the club can draw down these monies now if it were not for the court case - that`s my firm`s purchase halted then - I'm not paying for something expensive that is not actually guaranteed to be available to use if the club goes bust!

I can understand the share subscriber`s position, but have to take PR`s word for it that they are out there waiting. PR also stressed that all of this money will come into the club as soon as the legal case is settled i.e the money hasn`t gone forever, its just a matter of timing. If so, this would give a major boost to the club`s coffers as soon as Langston sign the agreement or the court case is settled. There was no question of claiming a misquote on this - PR clearly said that this money will be released to the club within a few days of the Langston settlement. So if this doesn`t hapen he will have blatantly lied.

So the sale of players (post Chopra) has gone to fill the above (temporary) cash hole. The Chopra money was used to fund an increased wage bill with the recruitment of Fowler, Hasselbank, Sinclair, McLean, Capaldi etc. which PR said was Dave Jones` preference rather than spend the cash on transfer fees as he felt he could get a better quality of squad that way. I personally don`t agree that was the right approach but can understand that that was the decision process involved.

The fans perception that the club doesn`t give a toss about them

This has eminated from some rather disparaging comments made about opinions other than his own by the manager, his views about Ninian Park and the Chairman`s comments about a "miracle" needed to reach the play-offs, together with a general lack of up to date information on the official website and an apparent lack of marketing initiatives to get more supporters into the ground to raise revenues. All this at a time when the club is about to ask supporters to start paying next week for a season that is still 5 months away!

After the standard "we have been misquoted" line, PR did accept that the club had a great tendency to shoot itself in the foot over such matters and pledged to make sure that far better communication channels between the club and its supporter base are kept open in future. In addition to the press launch of the new season ticket deals at the end of this week, PR referred to the future plan to get players (Fowler was mentioned specifically) visiting local schools etc. to drum up new supporters for the club (us old ones are stupid enough to turn up regardless of what the club does) - watch this space for when/if this happens.

The Langston case and its costs

I queried why the costs were £225k and not expected to rise in November last year (according to PR himself, so no "misquote" there) but have now risen to £500k. The explanation given (a reasonable one, even though I am still troubled by the level of fees being paid to law firms, including one who has a partner as a shareholder in the club) was that PR believed then that the case would be heared in December, just a few weeks after he made that statement. The case has now dragged on for a further 3 months at further great legal cost caused, according to PR, by the stance being taken by Langston.

As for the merits of the case, PR remains adamant that the club is right and Langston wrong. I want to know, but not to actually find out (I will explain). I want to know because, if anyone at the club has been negligent or incompetent in allowing the case to happen at huge cost to the club, they should be held to account publicly. Similarly, if Langston/Sam have launched a vindictive claim without foundation, they need to be similarly exposed. However, I don`t want to actually find out as I believe the only way of doing so is for a public court hearing to take place at even greater legal expense to the club and with considerable further delay before it can access the claimed additional funds.

Of future income , how much will go to CCFC and how much to Langstone and other creditors?

PR gave me an explanation as to whether PMG Estates are a creditor of CCFC or not (in November he said they had invested £11m into the club a few weeks ago he said they were owed nothing at present). The explanation was that they had actually deposited £9m in cash in a seperate bank account pledged towards the stadium build costs, but that money had not yet been drawn down as it wasn`t yet needed at this stage of the build - so they are not owed any money as of today, but have actually irrevocably committed cash to the scheme. In addition they have provided a guarantee of £2.3m to support other cash provided by a bank into the club. He also stated that the £3m PMG had loaned the club when it ran out of money in December 2005 had been secured on player transfer money, but the debt had been written off and the charge over the players withdrawn once the stadium build went unconditional. He said he didn`t know why the charge was still registered at Companies House, but would look into it.

The club has agreed to pay back PMG their debt (I presume PR meant only the £9m cash bit) plus interest (rate undisclosed) from the income from the Premier seating over a period of up to 5 years.This income should be over £3m a year so , if the interest rate is rasonable, PMG should be paid off well within the 5 years.

The club will retain all initial Premier Club joining fees (a one-off of up to £3m), plus all income from the stadium on matchdays, for conferences, catering and any pubs, hotels built on the site. PR said he hoped to be able to budget for 18,000 crowds in the new stadium.

The club will also retain all income from its 20 year tenancy agreement with Cardiff Blues. Exact details of the rent were not given, but the Blues will pay a 25% contribution towards all the stadium running costs and will have a strict sub-tenant status (they will NOT be part owners in any ashape or form). Without them being given tenancy rights, the Council would not have approved the scheme whether the football club wanted the Blues there or not.

Langston will receive up to £9m from stadium naming rights (no sponsor yet found, but a broker working on it he said), any additional retail built later on site, and then any Premier seating income in the years after PMG are fully paid off.

Future player sales

PR stated categorically that no offers from Everton have been received for Joe Ledley, that offers for him and 4 other players had been turned down in January, that the McLean transfer was accepted as it was regarded as a good price and that the Gunter sale happened because CG wanted to further his career at a higher level (I know others claim to have heared differently, but I can only report back on the answer given to the repeated question).

PR was frank enough to admit that the budget for clubs like Cardiff will always fall short of required income to make a profit and that player sales are envisaged each year unless a windfall is earned (big cup run, crowds up on budget etc.) so there is no guarantee that players won`t continue to be sold in the short to medium term future. So its even more important that the club sells the message to get more supporters in to minimise the risk of such sales.

Most of the wage cost on a handful of people?

Corky raised the rumour of 1/5th of the total wage bill going on just 5 employees (PR , DJ , JFH , RF adn TS). PR said this was not correct (but didn`t give an alternative figure) but did say that his own salary (he went on the payroll rather than be a consultant sometime last year) was about 60% of what Sam Hammam used to take out of the club (by most estimates that would make PR`s salary cost about £300k).

Stadium build progress

As most will now be aware, the first of the steel frame for the new stadium is now up (Steve Borley says the build programme is about 2 weeks ahead of schedule). Corky and I were certainly presently surprised to see the start of this appearing above the site perimeter boards as we arrived for the meeting. SB also said that he hoped to ensure that detailed pictures of the actual finalised stadium plans and pictures will be on the website and in the press as early as next week. He showed us the seats that are going in there and they are a great improvement on Ninian Park`s current one`s. For those prawn sandwich eaters who frequent this site, you will be delighted to hear that your (wider) seats will be the same quality as those in Arsenal`s Emirates Stadium!

So , overall , was the meeting of any use? You must all make your own minds up on this. But at least supporters` views were put across (I mainly refer to those expressed through Vince and Corky as they represent far far more views than me), were listened to and actions promised.

The real proof of the pudding will be if the promises and action plans discussed actually come about , and how soon.

Corky's comments
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