When Birmingham City’s board are aiming for promotion to Premier League

Despite growing anger from supporters over the running of the club, Birmingham City’s board have revealed ambitious plans to challenge for promotion

Birmingham City’s supporters have held two protests against the club’s owners at their side’s last two home games.

Hundreds of supporters marched towards St Andrew’s before Saturday’s (January 22) fixture against Barnsley and against Peterborough United on Tuesday night (January 25) to demonstrate against how the club is being run.

Banners were displayed and fans aimed angry chants at the club’s owners, Hong Kong-based Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited, during the marches.

The protests follow the social media campaign in which supporters have used the hashtag #BSHLOUT to demand change at the top of the club following uncertainty over who actually owns the club, the team’s continuing struggles in the bottom half of the Championship, the state of their St Andrew’s home and increasing financial losses.

Despite fans concerns over how the club is being run, Blues’ technical director and former player Craig Gardner has revealed that the club are aiming to challenge for promotion to the Premier League in the near future.

Birmingham City directors Edward Zheng (R) Yao Wang (CR) and technical director Craig Gardner (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Three year plan to challenge for promotion

In an interview with talkSPORT, Gardner said: “In my head I’ve got a three-year plan.

“At the minute the money side of the things are outweighing the on-field performance side, so we want to basically reverse that and start getting performances better, results better, whilst we’re bringing the wage structure down to a decent budget.

“So we’re working really hard on that to try and be creative, that’s this year. Next year is about stability with this club, we have to grow and say, ‘right we’re here now, we’re a stable club’.

“In year three we’ve got to compete because I don’t want to be involved in a stable club for four, five, six years, so our recruitment is very important.

“You can probably see the players that were trying to recruit, we’re trying to recruit pace, trickery, the kind of players that excite the fans because the fans need exciting.”

Birmingham City fans protest in the directors box during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Barnsley at St Andrew's

What are protesters unhappy about?

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.

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.

‘Club is not far sale’

The club also invited a selection of fans to meet board members last Thursday (January 20) to address the fans’ concerns.

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

Blues issued a statement following the meeting and revealed that the owners 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.”

During the meeting, board member Mr 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.’

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