Birmingham City owners respond to #BSHLOUT protesters

Birmingham City meets with fans to discuss issues

Blues fans started an online protest against the club’s current owners last week, using the hashtag #BSHLOUT and are planning an in person protest ahead of the game against Barnesley at home tomorrow (Saturday, January 22).

The protesters are unhappy with the investment in the squad and structural issues at St Andrews stadium - with part of the stadium remaining closed for more than a year.

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Lee Bowyer’s men are currently 18th in what is Blues’ 11th straight season in the Championship.

In addition fans the club were docked nine points in 2019 for breaching profitability and sustainability rules.

The club invited a selection of fans to meet board members last night (Thursday 20) to address the issues.

In attendance was board member Edward Zheng, technical director Craig Gardner, chief commercial officer Ian Dutton, governance and regulatory manager Ciara Gallagher and chief finance officer Mark Smith.

Blues issued a statement this morning following the meeting and revealed that the owners -Birmingham Sports Holdings - have ‘no intention’ to sell the club.

The club said: “The board stated that the club is not up for sale and the owners have no intention to sell. Like any business, it does have a value but the owners have invested, and continue to invest, heavily in the club.”

Birmingham City fans arrive at the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Reading at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium

Why are fans unhappy with the current regime?

Under the ownership of Birmingham Sports Holdings, the club were found to have breached profitability and sustainability rules in 2019 after incurring losses of nearly £48.8m in three years, and were subsequently docked nine points.

They avoided a second points deduction in 2020 despite losing an appeal to the EFL over a misconduct charge.

Sections of St Andrew’s stadium have also been shut for more than a year, with the club being forced to close the lower sections of the Kop and Tilton Road End due to structural issues.

Fans have also expressed frustration at the lack of communication from the club over their concerns.

During the meeting, board member Edward Zheng described the ‘large cultural difference’ that has impacted communication with fans.

He advised that professional businesses in China tend to ‘act first and talk later’.

It was acknowledged by the chairman and the board of the club that the culture ‘has to shift’ and communication lines will be ‘more open moving forward.’

Speaking at the event last night, the club’s project manager, Michael Moran, also detailed the extent of the repair works required.

Birmingham City Football Club St Andrews Stadium

When could the stadium fully reopen?

No exact date has been given for the reopening of the whole ground, but the club said contractors are hopeful the lower tiers will be open for the start of next season.

As it stands, the work that needs to be completed in order to open up the lower tiers involves refurbishment of the steel rakers and dealing with the corrosion that has incurred dating from the original build.

The club said it has been left with the following ‘limited options’:

  • Concrete encasement of steel rakers: this would include removing the current precast concrete terrace units, encasing the steel rakers in concrete to reduce ongoing maintenance and meet the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations and reinstating the terrace units.
  • Refurbishment of current beams: this would be the quickest solution if suitable access was available to work under the stadium. With that not being the case, the precast concrete terrace units will still need to be removed to facilitate the works. However, the problem of poor access for future maintenance and inspection will remain which is in contravention of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations.
  • Ground bearing stand replacement: this option would consist of removing the current stands and rebuilding them to comply with the Green Guide. This option would take much longer than the previous two and would require pitch access, however, would be more cohesive to facilitate safe standing in the future.

The club is currently awaiting proposals from external contractors regarding the options above, with a decision as to how the club will proceed expected in the next month.

During the meeting, the board also said that it does have an allocated budget to sign players ‘where considered appropriate’.

It was said that the club is also in a ‘far healthier financial situation’ than it was three years ago when it breached the EFL’s Profitability & Sustainability (P&S) rules, but ‘lessons have been learnt’ from previous mistakes and there is ‘great consideration’ regarding P&S - which is the reason Blues have adopted a ‘more balanced outlook’ on the transfer dealings during the window.

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