Step down, Blues fans tell Yeung
Peter Simpson in Birmingham
Angry Birmingham City fans are calling for embattled club president Carson Yeung Ka-sing to quit after making their team 'a laughing stock' by appointing his teenage son as a director of the troubled team.
The surprise appointment yesterday of 18-year-old Ryan Yeung following Yeung Snr's arrest in Hong Kong this month on money laundering charges has sent shock waves around the Championship club and the English Football League.
'This is very much a cynical appointment by Yeung (pictured) to run the club by proxy [while on bail and banned from leaving Hong Kong],' said Daniel Ivery, who runs popular Blues' fan site Often Partisan.
The latest twist in the sudden implosion of Birmingham City will likely make Ryan Yeung - named after Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs - the youngest director ever appointed to the board of an English professional football club.
'You have to question whether an 18-year-old has the experience to run a club like Birmingham,' Ivery said. 'Many fans say we are now a laughing stock with Ryan as a director.'
He said the bombshell appointment was an insurance policy should Yeung, who faces five counts of money laundering worth HK$721 million lose his August 11 court battle.
Ivery is among a growing number of supporters calling for controlling shareholder Yeung to step down as president. They are demanding an emergency AGM to appoint an experienced helmsman to guide the club through what many are predicting is a gathering financial storm.
The club has unknown debts and players are being rapidly sold off to pay the bills. Club officials insist there is no connection between Yeung's court troubles and the financial well-being of the club.
However, the lack of information and the grave criminal charges against Yeung have many fearing the club is being pushed further towards financial administration.
Yeung also ordered his trusted lieutenant, acting chairman Peter Pannu, a former Hong Kong policeman-turned barrister, to join his son on the board.
The shake-up saw the last remaining British director, Michael Wiseman, forced out by the owners, who include mainlanders Vico Hui Ho-luek, an investment manager, and vice-chairman Bruno Wu Zheng, a business and media entrepreneur.
The club refused to comment on the directorial shake-up, only confirming Wiseman's removal and that the board was being restructured.
But a club insider said last night: 'The appointment of Ryan and Peter Pannu must pass the fit and proper person test set out by the Football League and be approved by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Carson has appointed his son as a director and many are questioning this, inside and outside the club.'
A spokesman for the Football League said: 'If approved and he passes our fit and proper person test, Ryan Yeung would likely be the youngest board director in the UK, but we have to check the historical records. We are monitoring the situation at Birmingham City FC.'
The club, which won the League Cup in February then plummeted out of the Premiership, is reported as being in a precarious financial position following its relegation. In March, Birmingham International Holdings, the club's holding company, warned it was seeking to raise GBP24.5 million (HK$307 million) in new funding to cover a shortfall of up to GBP27.5 million.
'We ask Carson and the other Chinese board members to show us some transparency and tell us what is going on. We want the board to tell us the true extent of the club's debts and if they have the funds to survive the worse,' said supporter Andy Webb, who runs the Small Heath Alliance, an independent fan club named after the club's original name.