West Bromwich Albion’s future may be in safe hands, according to chairman Jeremy Peace, but in whose hands remains open to question.
The club released a statement this week inviting “substantial financial investment” to help the club with the crippling demands of the Premier League.
Given their solid accounts, the Baggies’ position is like that of a snooker player facing a shot to nothing.
While it’s a bonus if the ball drops, it is not too damaging if it doesn’t.
All will be made clear within the next seven weeks seeing as Peace has put an end-of-July deadline in place for potential investors to make themselves known to the Albion board.
Urgency is of the essence.
The chairman is cognisant of the need to avoid a repeat of the Carson Yeung fiasco, which lingered like a bad smell throughout Birmingham City’s
turbulent return season in the Premier League, and he is not pinning any great hopes on a investor emerging from the oil fields of Texas or Siberia.
An individual remains the most likely option, however, given the present lack of institutional investment in the sport – but the chairman revealed
that there was, in his view, roughly a five per cent chance of a suitable one stepping forward.
Peace said: “We need someone who is a major strategic partner.
“I don’t mean a relatively successful entrepreneur who wants to come in and buy the stake and carry it on.
I think that is too similar to what we have now.
“We are talking about someone with very deep pockets.
“To be honest, I’m not bothered if someone does or doesn’t come in and if you asked what I thought the chance of that happening was, I
would say it’s remote; maybe one in 20.
“We want a certain type of partner. We do not want a group of people wandering through the door saying ‘we’ll do a better job than you.’
“We need someone with really big money who is going to make an impact on the club.
“If that doesn’t happen then I’m certainly not interested and, as the majority shareholder,
I can tell you that won’t happen.
“Whatever does happen has to be in the best interests of the club.”
And if that means Peace has to cut his ties with the Baggies then so be it.
“I have a completely open mind,” he said
“We have some good people here who do a good job, so someone might come in and want them to continue with what they are doing –
but if they wanted to do it all their own way then, yes, my involvement would end.
He added: “From my point of view this is the best time for the club to do this.
“We are OK balance sheet-wise, we have got cash-flow and it’s very easy to see our future income streams for the next three years.
“If we did the same thing this time next year, people might use ‘second season syndrome'[as an argument against it].
“The worst thing we could do is keep the blinkers on for another season like we have done in the past.
“Why don’t we look to see what’s out there?
If that’s nothing then fine, but at least we have looked.”
To put the disparity between the rich and ‘poor’ clubs in the Premier League in perspective, it is worth noting that Manchester United turned over £212 million last year, a figure which incorporated the money made from the old Sky television deal; in Albion’s last year in the Premier League they turned over £35 million.
Even with the new, more lucrative television deal, Peace believes a bottom end Premier League team will be struggling to turn over £50 million.
He added: “Sadly, the size of your wage bill still largely determines where you finish unless you can get your resources to go further by buying
more cleverly, which becomes more difficult given the research and communication that goes into scouting players these days.
“I still think there are transfer deals done – but we had to work out how we could really compete.
“We sat here, as a board, giving due deference to the process, and we realised that we were coming from somewhere where we were strong
and going to somewhere we were weak.
“One way we can [to compete] is to see if we can find someone who sees the Premier League as a vehicle for something they want
“We will give the process until the end of July.
“If there’s no interest by then, the door shuts because we do not want any of this impacting on the football.
“With due respect to David Gold, he made a comment (in The Post) about this process and said that the worst thing that happened to Birmingham City was they let the process drag.
“We don’t want that to be an excuse for things not going well on the pitch.
“We can now say right, ‘that’s done’, tick in the box’, now let’s get back to running the club on a longer-term basis and concentrating on
things like getting our recruitment in place.”
Saturday: Jeremy Peace on Albion’s recruitment and why the club’s current nancial model can break the Premier League mould.