Since 2010, the 115 year old history of Welsh soccer club Cardiff City F.C. has been shaken up more than ever before. At the center of most of the controversy is owner Vincent Tan. The Malaysian billionaire has a history of business success, with some attributing this to his ties to Malaysian politicians. Through decades of work, Tan has amassed an estimated $1.3 billion net worth. While Tan has caused quite a bit of controversy, it should be noted that the Bluebirds have succeeded (to some extent) under Tan's reign. This has not done much to ease pressure on a man who recently had to say in an interview that he was not a villain.
Tan's antics and decisions have led to protests and chants from supporters during matches. Tan recently revealed that, "Some of my family members really want me to leave. They think it's not worth it. They think no-one is grateful.” At times, Tan has even suggested selling his shares on the Malaysian stock market.
Yet, in true Tan form this claim was countered as well. At that time, Tan announced plans to become the 98% owner of the Bluebirds. This may have changed after Tan found out he had 90% of the Cardiff City F.C. Supporters' support. This is hard to believe when the man has spent more time causing drama than getting wins. The tumultuous era of Cardiff City could see more changes coming soon. Whether they be for the club or Tan remains to be seen.
From the moment former owner Peter Ridsdale brought in debt support from Malaysia, things began to change at the club. While Tan served as a minor voice at first in the operation, that did not last for long, and within two years that pot began to stir in significant fashion. Moments after a playoff defeat to West Ham, an anonymous message board report began to swirl about a color change for the club. A few hours later, the rumor proved true and the Bluebirds were changing to red.
This change ranks quite high for panic for a long-standing club. After hearing overwhelming displeasure from supporters the board announced the changes wouldn't be happening. A month later, the plans were back in motion. Many suggest that the color change happened after Tan said he needed to reassess his £100 million investment when the color change was initially called off.
Further sparking anger in the fans came when the now red Bluebirds changed their crest. The iconic Bluebird moved to the bottom of the crest in favor of a massive red dragon. This reportedly came from Tan's insistence in a bid to capitalize on the growing Asian market. However, the club itself tried deflecting some of the attention on Tan by saying, “It is clear to all concerned that the club simply cannot continue to function and exist in its current state.” While fans may be hurt by seeing their iconic club change, these moves could garner the club more money to improve in the vital transfer markets, if executed properly.
That is a point of concern for supporters. So far, accusations of unfair payments have riddled the club. In October 2013, the removal of Recruitment Chair Iain Moody was not well received. Furthering the anger came when inexperienced Tan family friend Alisher Apsalyamov took over the position. Apsalyamov had to eventually step down over visa issues. This causes the supporters to now worry about their club on and off the pitch. As Tan is now contemplating a name change, possibly removing “City” for the team's name, the supporters have more to worry about off the pitch as well.
While Tan has been subject of heavy criticism, Cardiff City has experienced some level of success since the Malaysian group took over. However, most of this came with some controversy in the mix. Last year, the team celebrated its first promotion to the Barclay's Premier League. Then-manager Malky Mackay praised Tan's efforts at the time. Once promoted, the finger pointing began as Tan and the board blamed Mackay for overspending $25.1 million during the transfer window. Mackay claimed that his $58.7 million spending was just.
The issue didn't cool by the next window, as the board didn't allow a dollar spent. By the end of 2013 Mackay was out as as manager. Tan recently said he hopes to tell everyone the “truth” soon. Unfortunately that has to wait until the legal matter with Mackey is resolved.
Making issues worse is the club's position on the table. The Bluebirds are close to leaving after one year in the Premiership. If the team can win its last few matches, it should be able to avoid relegation. If this happens maybe the club can prove fans right that it was Mackay's decision making all along. If the club does get relegated, Tan may be next to go.
When asked if he would leave Tan said no. However, his point that he'd stay "...unless the fans really p*** me off so much, then I may leave" could lead to a different result. While doubtful, this may allow some Cardiff City supporters to be ok with being in the bottom three.
The tensions make Tan and his board's accomplishments seem trivial. Yet, Tan has cleared past debts off the club's books. The club also brokered a co-op deal with Bosnian club FK Sarajevo that could see expanded rosters and fans. Things could be improving. Yet, while Cardiff City begins to right the ship, it continues to make decisions that upset supporters.
A perfect example of this came during the summer of 2013. At a press conference in August, Tan announced a $1.6 million donation to local charities in the town. What could have been an ideal time to improve relations with the community instead led to a discussion of the Cardiff City F.C. name. His point that: “Who does not know Cardiff is a city? Or Hull is a city? Why must they call themselves city?” While true, this only gave supporters another moment to wonder what will be the future of their beloved club.
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