Fans of Birmingham City and Aston Villa might have been wondering how much compensation Villa would have to pay Blues for their controversial signing of Alex McCleish as manager a few days after he surprisingly walked out on Blues last month.
Well, guess what, they’re not going to be told because the settlement involves an ‘undisclosed’ payment. So Blues followers won’t know how much extra money Chris Hughton might have to spend and whether their club received anything like the £5.4m the management had threatened to sue Villa for, and Villa fans won’t know whether they got McCleish for a bargain or if they’ve been forced to pay their city rivals the full amount.
Such secrecy is common pactice in football, a game that seems to be becoming ever less than open and transparent. Blues are a prime example. Little is known about majority shareholder Carson Yeung’s finances or those of Birmingham International Holdings, the organisation that controls the club. Meanwhile, supporters were never told why highly respected Chief Executive Michael Dunford resigned suddenly in early 2010, only months after joining the club (a confidentiality clause was inserted into his departure agreement). And you can bet that come August 31st, when the summer transfer window closes, a not inconsiderable proportion of the deals done throughout English football over the previous few months will involve ‘undisclosed fees’.
If only that wonderful investigative media beacon the News of the World was still around…a few hacks of Alex’s bank manager’s ‘phone, some threatening calls to the Macao gambling syndicates or a late night trawl through Randy Learner’s e-mails and they’d soon find out the truth. But not to worry… a bit of honest digging (on the internet) and a reliable non-local news source (the Daily Telegraph) reveals that the compensation Aston Villa paid Birmingham City was almost £3m (the Birmingham Mail later published a similar figure). So know we know…sort of…more or less. OK, maybe we don’t know the details and exactly why McCleish left Blues, but at least we know this much.
But for goodness sake, why all this secrecy? These issues matter to fans and some of the unanswered questions are fundamental to how clubs operate – and in Birmingham City’s case – who is operating them. All we want is the truth.