Trust Chair’s Verdict On Cardiff City Executives Under Proposed New Owner, Director Tests

Trust chair Keith Morgan

Trust chair and football finance expert, Keith Morgan, gives his verdict on whether Cardiff City directors would pass or fail proposed new Owner and Director Tests drawn up by the Football Supporters’ Association’s (FSA) in a recent paper  requested by the Football Association.

For owners, the paper proposes that anyone taking ownership of more than 25% of a club’s shares should firstly be required to pass a test proving that they have a sustainable business plan for the club and that they will appoint people to be the club’s directors that have the skills and experience to run it properly, including having satisfactory engagement with the club’s supporters and other stakeholders.

Tests for both owners and directors would involve full disclosure of any previous personal insolvency issues, failures as a director of insolvent companies, criminal convictions etc. and that any such incidences should be regarded prima facie as a bar from becoming an owner or director. There would also be a bar on owners borrowing money to buy a club but giving the lender security over club assets for that lending i.e. borrowing money personally, but leaving the burden of that lending to be met by the club.

The first thing to say is, of course, to express our sympathy to our fellow fans at Bury FC  following their expulsion from the English Football League (EFL). We’re pleased that Bolton Wanderers has been saved from a similar fate to that of Bury.

If the proposed new rules for Owner and Director fitness tests had been applied in the Bury case, the sad outcome may well have been avoided.

At Cardiff City we are fortunate in that, as Chair of Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust, I have regular meetings with the Chief Executive Ken Choo and also dialogue with the Chair Mehmet Dalman on issues such as corporate governance at the club, its overall financial strategy etc. to receive at least a degree of assurance and comfort for our fans that a Bury or Bolton crisis situation will not happen at our club.

Also, our involvement with the FSA enables us to be kept up to date with discussions with the football authorities and to provide our input into those discussions.

One issue to be considered perhaps is, if the proposed new Owner and Director tests were applied to Cardiff City FC (CCFC), how would its owner and directors be assessed? This cannot be determined accurately, and is looked at now with the benefit of hindsight and applying proposed rules which were not in force at the time of their appointment.

These are my personal views of how they might be applied to the owner and directors of Cardiff City.

Owner – Tan Sri Vincent Tan

No history of past business failures and has invested heavily with his own money into the club without taking it out by way of dividends, bonuses or even loan repayments as debt due to him has largely either been written off or converted into non-repayable shares as part of a historical promise to do so.

No football knowledge or experience before involvement with CCFC but has gained a lot since, including with other clubs.

Would pass new owner test – YES

Chair – Mehmet Dalman

Highly successful businessman, with no record of business failure.  Also invested in the club (since repaid) through a business in which he has an interest at a time when the club needed a cash injection.

Had football experience before CCFC, including involvement with owners of Manchester United and has certainly dealt with football problems and issues since at CCFC.

Would pass director test – YES

Chief Executive – Ken Choo

Experienced businessman and qualified accountant, but no football experience prior to joining CCFC. Has since gained huge experience at this club and other football clubs owned or part owned by Vincent Tan. Test applied to Ken would have been financial skills level he brought to club.

Would pass director test – YES

Director – Steve Borley

Very experienced and successful local businessman, who has invested into the club when required to assist it financially and is also a long standing fan of the club.

Would pass director test – YES

Director – Derek Chee Seng Chin

Research shows him to be a senior lawyer in Vincent Tan’s Berjaya business empire but appears to be the owner’s employee rather than to have any specific role for the benefit of CCFC (the club uses external lawyers for its own advice).

Would pass director test –NO, as actual work for CCFC as an entity unclear

Director – Marco Ronaldo Caramella

Not clear what his direct role at CCFC is, but he is a highly successful businessman in Malaysia and has a Cardiff link from his schooldays here. Possible role is in some form of profile raising or seeking additional investors for the club in Malaysia.

Would pass director test – UNLIKELY, as role seems more “ambassadorial” than any role in actually running the football club

Director – Danni Rais

Even doing some research makes it unclear what Danni Rais does, but he seems to have a high social profile back in ,Malaysia and his father was a senior figure in government there until recently. No apparent role at CCFC.

Would pass director test –NO

Director – Ronald Issen

Has a senior role in a business which raised a lot of money in the USA last year , but no apparent reason for him being involved in CCFC and far from clear why he was made a director in 2018.

Would pass director test – NO

Keith Morgan, Chair