Cardiff's Malaysian Owners - My View
Whilst rich foreign owners are now no strange site in the Premier League, Cardiff City’s are perhaps the most talked-about and most controversial in the current situation. Vincent Tan, from Malaysia, took over the Bluebirds in 2010 along with one of his fellow countrymen, and has invested heavily in trying to establish Cardiff in the top flight after a long absence.
Since appointing Malky Mackay in 2011, fortunes have been looking up for the Welsh team. They gained promotion from the Championship as runaway winners last season, and spent heavily in the summer in order to ensure their safety in their first season in England’s top tier for several decades. They broke their transfer record three times during the course of the summer transfer window, bringing in players of the calibre of Steven Caulker, and Chilean international Gary Medel from Sevilla. So far, these purchases seem to be working out pretty well, despite City lying 16th in the table, with just two wins from 8 (although one of those did come against giants Manchester City).
Despite the recent successes, all the fans aren’t entirely happy with the owners and their philosophies. In recent seasons, Vincent Tan has changed the colour of the Cardiff kit and badge, as well as sacking various experienced members of non-playing staff, and replacing them with lesser-known faces.
As the nickname Bluebirds would suggest, Cardiff have traditionally turned out in a dark blue home kit, which they did until the beginning of last season, when the Malaysian owners decided to change it in favour of a red shirt – this was done with commercial purposes in mind, as red is a more significant colour over there than the original shirt. Not only did this understandably get under the skin of the majority of the supporters, but just weeks before making the switch, Vincent Tan announced that he would not be changing the colour of the kit or the badge, so when he did it must have been a bit of a kick in the teeth for the fans.
Changing the badge is perhaps less annoying for the supporters to have to cope with. It is often done by clubs this season, to mark an event (such as Arsenal changing to a special crest for their 125th season in 2011-12), or just for a change, to modernise the look of a club. However, for the badge to be completely changed from blue to red – and even to replace the traditional bluebird that was on there with a dragon – will have heavily annoyed some of the older and more traditional supporters of Cardiff City.
The latest controversy, which is still going on as we read, has been something unfolding in the last few weeks. Malky Mackay managed to gain promotion to the Premier League with a good-quality backroom team, including his head of recruitment Iain Moody, regarded as Mackay’s right-hand man. However, Moody has now been removed from his position by the owner Tan, and replaced with a family friend of the owner, Alisher Apsalyamov, who has very little known previous experience in football, and is only 23 years of age.
Understandably, this has caused a bit of a stir amongst the Cardiff ranks – especially from the Scottish manager Mackay. Moody was key in bringing some of the top-quality players such as Gary Medel to the Cardiff City Stadium in the summer, and they would arguably be much worse off without Moody’s hard work with the club. This is the main reason why the management team have hit back at the owners, and there was even talk Malky Mackay was asked to resign by his boss. This would, in my opinion, be a very short-sighted and poor decision for the club going forward, and would garner a lot of criticism from those outside the Welsh capital if it were to happen.
We can sit here criticising all the strange decisions that Tan has made for a long while. However, we can’t hide the fact that he has done good for the club too. He has taken the club back to heights that most supporters won’t be old enough to remember, and also brought some fantastic players to the club whilst doing so. As little as five years ago, Cardiff fans will only have been able to dream about having someone of the quality of the aggressive Chilean on their books, but now the dream has become reality. The owner certainly seems to be willing to splash cash and get the club to unseen heights, and this is admirable. However, I do feel there is a long way to go until he’s reached those heights – a couple of seasons at least – and that’s if he reaches them at all. It’ll certainly be an interesting story to watch unfold, even for the neutrals, but the Cardiff supporters must be feeling fairly excited about all this progress they’re making under the Malaysian owners.