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    21 May, 2005

    City: where are we now then?

    It's time for some reflection on the situation at Cardiff City. Since the crisis blew up publicly in March - see my posts during that month - things seem to have stabilised. When I went on Good Morning Wales early in March following the sale of Graham Kavanagh, I was as worried as anyone. I said on the programme then:

    "what we all want, of course, is to avoid administration, avoid relegation and not sell any more players but that may not be realistic."

    Well, the good news is that we avoided administration and relegation, and avoided selling any of the players we wanted to keep. So the natural pessimism that followed the shock of the Kavanagh sale - still a bizare and extraordinary event though - did not turn out to be justified.

    To stay on the optimistic note for the time being, discussions I've had with representatives of the Supporters Club and Valley RAMS suggest that the supporters' voice is being heard more within the club in terms of planning proper incentives to encourage people to come to the ground, buy season tickets etc. They are positive about the role being played by Peter Ridsdale, who has now taken over as Chief Executive, and who I am told came up with the 'Ambassador' title for the early bird season tickets. But it's Ridsdale's football knowledge that is impressing people. I guess there are no surprises that Sam has asked him to take over altogether - we saw that one coming months ago.

    We also had the news that Costco were committed to the stadium, though I would like to be clearer as to whether this is an unconditional commitment that they cannot wriggle out of.

    The Council also appears to still be committed to the scheme, although I notice that Council leader Rodney Berman is using the same phrase now about the last pieces of the jigsaw needing to be in place as he did in March .

    Finally on the optimistic side, the club did reply to my letter, and with more information than I had expected. Sam also tried to ring me twice, though inevitably i was out at meetings when he did. I took the club's letter as a positive sign that the club was willing to be more open and share more information with the fans and shareholders. The letter of course revealed that Sam's company had not been paid consultancy fees for a while. The club promised an AGM this summer. The club did not reveal to whom the loan notes were repayable, but then they did not have to. The understanding is that this is medium-term debt not repayable until 2011, and if we can get our overall spending under control, that is not necessarily a worry for (say) next season.

    Now, some notes of caution. The stadium still remains key to the financial viability of the club, and of course the accounts indicated that the directors will have to look at a financial restructuring after May 2005 (see my letter to the club). We don't know what form this restructuring is likely to take, nor do we know when the stadium deal will go ahead, or when we can expect to hear news of other retailers. We are still heavily in debt.

    Next, we are clearly going to lose players this summer, as the club has to get its spending on wages down. That's obviously disappointing, given we ended the season looking a better team, but scarcely surprising. We are likely to see Gabbidon going, and we know other clubs have been sniffing around Jerome, McAnuff and Collins. Of course, no-one should believe every rumour around, certainly not from the Echo given their belief that 9 or 10 players would follow Kavanagh out. There are other players who are high-earners, some of whom most fans would be happy to see leave: on the other hand, there are areas we will have to strengthen.

    The club will also have some kind of break-even figure in mind for ticket sales, of course. That could be tough to reach.

    We may see some changes in managerial personnel, with the latest rumour being that Dave Jones might be appointed. Personally, I'm less concerned about that at the moment. Lennie got us up into this division, and I for one am grateful for that, but it is fair to say he has not really enjoyed fans' confidence this season. Of course, it's not as though he has a free hand.

    Then there is the boardroom situation. Personally, I have always found David Temme helpful when I have spoken to him, so my thanks to him if he is moving on now. I am not sure what to make of the departure of Kim Walker. I hope it doesn't indicate that there is more division within the boardroom.

    So all in all, would you buy a season-ticket this season? Well, I will. At the end of the day, it's Cardiff City. And I'm watching City in the Championship, not in what I still think of as the old Fourth Division, and I don't think that would have happened without Sam's investment.

    I'm a fan who became a politician, not a politician who became a fan. I didn't ever particularly want to get involved in worrying about the state of the club. In the past it's been enough for me to go to games, cheer our victories or moan about our defeats and lost chances, and then go home. I didn't expect to be writing letters to the management and the rest. I respect those fans who do more than that, whether it is running the Supporters' Club and Valley Rams, or the various websites such as Mike Morris's and others too numerous to mention!

    I approach next season with no illusions. I will be looking to the board to fulfil their responsibilities in terms of holding a company AGM as a vehicle to keep us informed, and more importantly, to deliver the stadium. I also hope we have a bullshit-free season. Above all, I hope we have a good season on the pitch. But, to be fair, today, notwithstanding the problems, I am more optimistic than I was in March.

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