Perhaps now we at least might have some understanding of why Vincent Tan has been so insistent on the subject of changing the colours of Cardiff City’s shirts over this last couple of years or so. By wearing red, all associated with the club are better prepared to mask the redness of their faces as the club’s owner repeatedly drags its name through the mud. The latest revelations to come from The Cardiff City Stadium, however, are of an altogether more serious nature than those that had preceded them, rumours of £3.7m in bonuses being offered to the players before Sunday afternoon’s match at Tottenham Hotspur in direct contravention of Premier League rules over payments to players.
This being Vincent Tan, of course, there was even something mildly ridiculous about the offer being made. Tan’s football knowledge is now such that he saw fit to offer the advice to his players that if they wanted to take advantage of his offer they should “shoot more.” It’s not the first time that Tan has directly intervened in the running of the team, but it is the first time that he has been directly involved in the breaking of rules, and these aren’t FA or Football League rules which, as we have seen on more than one occasion in the past, have a tendency to be thrown by the wayside if they become too inconvenient. The Premier League is a law unto itself, and breaking their rules has the potential to be a different matter for the shower that currently claims to be “running” Cardiff City Football Club.
Last night’s Daily Mail article which first revealed the story might have been over-egging the pudding a little, of course. The club may well receive a fine for Tan’s behaviour at the weekend but, while a points deduction is theoretically possible, it would be surprising if this matter came to such a conclusion. To put Cardiff City at any risk of such a deduction, however, can only be described as irresponsible and stupid. What, we might reasonably ask, would be the reaction if, say, the Premier League did decide to make an example of the club – after all, illegal betting in European club football has been under the microscope over the last few months in a way in which it seldom has been before – and make an example of Cardiff City, deduct it a couple of points, and then for the club to get relegated by that margin come May? Tan’s thoughtlessness would not only have cost his club its place in the Premier League, but also tens of millions of pounds in that eventuality.
We shall have to wait and see whether the club’s response to the Premier League’s questioning on the subject provides a reasonable explanation as to what exactly went on last weekend, of course, but if the club’s public comment on the subject last night – ‘We didn’t realise it was against regulations. Vincent Tan has now rescinded the offer’ – is anything like the sort of response they send to the Premier League, then Cardiff City supporters may well have cause to be concerned. In any area of law or regulation in any walk of life, ignorance of rules or laws is never considered a mitigating circumstance in the event of them being broken. What other rules, we might reasonably ask, did the club “not realise” were in place? This don’t suggest that other rules have been broken, of course, but the way in which Cardiff City seems to have been run certainly suggests that it has been at the sole behest of one man’s whims, and this one man shows signs of not even understanding the basic courtesies of how to run a football club or the regulatory framework under which it runs.
So, maybe Cardiff City will be censured by the Premier League, and maybe they won’t. All the time, however, we are learning more and more about the Vincent Tan and what he considers the the correct way in which to run a business. We may, from recent events, interpret that Tan believes that there is no problem too nuanced that it can’t be solved by throwing money at it. Never mind that the players of Cardiff City are Premier League footballers earning thousands of pounds a week, throw another £3.7m at them and they’ll definitely start winning matches! We might also wonder what sort of effect the involvement of Tan at a pre-match meeting might have on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has had a difficult start to his time in charge of the club and may well justifiably feel as if his authority over the players has been undermined by Tan’s intervention.
Then, of course, there was his interview with the BBC at the end of last week, in which he again insulted supporters who are against the supporters of his own club in an interview broadcast the day before an early bird offer on season ticket sales for next season was due to close. And as if that wasn’t enough, Tan went on to accuse the media of being “a bit racist” over their coverage of him, a belief that doesn’t seem to have a great deal of substantiation about it at all. Because it’s hardly as if journalists have long memories and are capable of bearing grudges, after all, is it? And it’s certainly not as if there have been some people in football who have afforded themselves considerable amounts of slack as a result of good relationships with strategically selected hacks, is it?
A lot of the time, Vincent Tan comes across as being his own worst enemy. His language and actions are those of a bully, his sense of entitlement is enough to make the most loyal start to feel queasy, and some of the business decisions that he makes leave us asking ourselves how on earth he got to become so damn rich in the first place. And this is where the rebranding comes back in. A large number of Cardiff supporters bought the whole rebranding matter because of the implication that there was some sort of considered business plan behind it all. It felt increasingly this season as if those running Cardiff City are making it all up as they go along, and if the club is headed for relegation from the Premier League at the end of this season, where exactly that might all end up is just about anybody’s guess. And in that eventuality, it will take a hell of a lot more than trying to throw banknotes at the first team squad to set things straight again.
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