Trust chair, Tim Hartley, and board member, Keith Morgan, joined a group of fans representatives at the Cardiff City Stadium last night to meet the club’s new Chief Executive. It was a chance for Simon Lim to introduce himself and for us to ask him about his role and the direction of the club.
Simon is an accountant by profession and was originally installed as the club’s Finance Director. He worked in London for fifteen years and has links to Cardiff since his daughter studied here. He said moving here after London was ‘heavenly.’
Bringing him to Cardiff is seen as strengthening links between the Malaysians. Vincent Tan’s has handed over the running of the Berjaya Group to his son but is still very actively involved in a number of businesses. He is also spending more time here now and is attending more City games.
Interest in the club in Malaysia is growing with the live television feeds and regular press coverage. Simon says he understands the passion for the club in Cardiff and now wants to expand our fan base internationally. To that end they are already talking to marketing groups like IMG about how this can be achieved. But Simon realises that everything is dependent on what happens on the pitch.
Vincent Tan is committed to the club and his investment is not dependent on the Bluebirds gaining promotion this season. Simon says VT is a self made businessman who has invested £12 million in players as well as putting more money into developing the stadium and training facilities. Why then would he want to walk away?
Simon was questioned on the Langston debt and told us that a QC had been engaged to review the case anew with a view to settling this historic debt once and for all. He confirmed that Vincent Tan still intends to turn the debt the club owes him into equity after settlement. Only four Championship clubs made an operating profit last year so he knows how difficult things are in this division.
On the new training facilities he said they have two preferred sites, in the Vale of Glamorgan and on the old paper mill site near Ely. Both councils are supportive and a feasibility study is being carried out but the club very much wants any new training facility to be in Cardiff.
The question of the rebrand and further changes were raised and all the fans at the meeting made it clear that we do not want to lose any more of our traditional identity. We said that a lot of fans are annoyed that we do not hear the word ‘Bluebirds’ as often as we used to on the PA system, especially as the team runs onto the pitch. We made the point that the Bluebirds, as symbol and nickname, are close to our hearts and we do not want to lose that. As a Trust we made the point again that any major changes, like the rebranding, should always be the subject of full and proper consultation with supporters. Simon said he heard what we were saying and that he would take this strength of view back to the club board.
We expressed concern at an apparent drop in attendances for matches this season. This apparently is the trend for all Championship clubs and Cardiff are actually doing slightly better than most of them. There is certainly a question over the wisdom of playing two away games followed by two home games in terms of the affect on crowds. Cardiff made this point to the Football League at its meeting last week. The fixture schedule is something we will be taking up with Supporters Direct to try to ensure we do not have the hassle and expense of two away matches in succession and also that we try to arrange games far from home on a Saturday rather than midweek to allow people time to travel.
I asked Simon what his priorities were for the club. He said he wants to stabilise things internally after the changes in staffing over recent months. Premier League football is of course the number one priority and thirdly he want to ensure Cardiff stay in the Premiership once we get there. These are high aspirations and I hope we can all work together to achieve them.
Simon has grasped the main issues for the club very quickly and on this showing he does seem to want to be open and engaged with the fan base. We as a Trust hope to meet with him again early in December to put your questions directly to him. Now come on City. A 7th straight home win against Burnley on Saturday please!