Save a tenner for Ulises de la Cruz

TWO stand-out moments from Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady’s entertaining-as-ever column in Saturday’s Sun.

Her claim that she briefly fantasised about headbutting a fellow parent at her son’s school last week will have to wait for another blog entry, another time. Instead, I’d like to focus on the revelation that Birmingham considered insuring themselves against failure to win promotion.

They didn’t go through with it in the end (insuring themselves, I mean, rather than failing to win promotion – although both were a distinct possibility at one point) because it is against Football League rules (I’m definitely referring to self-insurance this time).

I suppose the League would argue that if a team has set themselves up to receive a pay-out in the event of failure, they might be tempted to throw the odd game here and there. I can’t think of any insurance policy, though, that would bring in the guaranteed minimum of £30million in prize money that a season in the Premier League offers.

Anyway, the League said no, so that was the end of that plan. But it turns out there was a precedent – sort of. When Millwall won promotion to the top flight in 1988, they funded a series of ground improvements from a pay-out on an insurance policy. The difference was that they had insured themselves against promotion (rather than against failure to go up). So maybe the rules have been tightened up in recent years, or maybe they only apply to certain types of insurance policy.

Insurance policy or no insurance policy, it was in Birmingham’s interests to gain promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt. The public shows of nervousness in the club’s boardroom, about which I’ve written in this blog at least twice before, were proof of that.

Blues had to get back before the Premier League parachute payments ran out, because the consequences of failing to do so would not have been pleasant. Much has been made of the fact that the three teams relegated from the Championship this season – Charlton, Southampton and Norwich – were all playing each other in the Premier League in 2004/05. Charlton were still there as recently as two years ago. Life outside the top flight is increasingly a financial struggle.

If you want proof of that, look at the number of Football League clubs to have had points deducted this season, all due to various financial troubles. Even if you discount Southampton’s penalty, which won’t now be enforced until next season, the League has deducted a total of 84 points from five teams during the campaign. I don’t know where all these points go, but if there’s any firm of administrators out there which fancies collecting them all up, they could use them to win League Two next season.

For Birmingham, for now, those financial worries can be put to one side. Thanks to yesterday’s remarkably straightforward (by their standards) 2-1 win at Reading, the Premier League beckons. They’ll be fine, as long as they don’t get relegated next season.

It was funny watching Birmingham chairman David Gold giving a TV interview on the pitch after the match, trying to make out that – despite a nervy season – he’d kept his cool in public all along.

“You always have doubts,” he said. “You wouldn’t say that publicly, but inside, you think: ‘Have the wheels come off?’ But the important thing was that we stuck together as a unit.”

David, David, David. You may not have said outright that you had doubts, I accept that. And I also accept that you insisted in every interview you gave this season that Birmingham would gain promotion.

But I read a newspaper interview a couple of weeks ago, in which you were quoted as saying that you ran around your house like a “demented fan” after your promotion rivals Sheffield United conceded a decisive goal in a televised match at Burnley. I don’t think you would have done that if you had been supremely confident.

I’m pleased for you that your team have won promotion, and I’m particularly pleased for your manager, Alex McLeish, who has been to hell and back this season. But it was as clear as day how nervous you were, David, and how many doubts you were having. That’s OK. I know how much you care, and how much promotion means to you.

It’s good news for Brady, too, who should be able to face the Aston Villa fans in the playground at her son’s school with a touch more confidence this week.

It’s good news for the players, who will get promotion bonuses, judged on a sliding scale according to how often they featured this season.

As Brady explained in her Sun column: “We have a promotion bonus pool to be divided on the basis of accumulated points throughout the season: three for selection, two for a sub who plays, one for a sub who does not.

“This would earn defender Ulises de la Cruz about a tenner for his one brief 20-minute appearance as a sub against Doncaster back on March 14.”

I was at that game, Karren, and I’m not sure he’s even worth a tenner. But hey, you’re in the money now you’ve won a place back in the Premier League. Why not splash out?


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