When the term ‘bad football club owner’ is mentioned in the media, it will usually stem from reports on the antics of the likes of Cellino, The Oystons and Venky’s. But there is one man who has been slipping under the radar for some time when it comes to this particular talking point, and that man is Nottingham Forest Football Club owner; Fawaz Al Hasawi. The reason why questions are rarely raised about the Kuwaiti, is that there seems to be a misconception that he means well, but his reign has just been misguided, as opposed to malicious. But that is a misconception that is almost as dangerous as his five year ownership of the club has proved to be.
After years of winding up orders, unpaid bills, transfer embargos, slipping down the league table season by season, cringe-worthy Twitter outbursts, winding up orders, dropping attendances, countless manager sackings, selling players, sponsoring the club shirts with his own name and completely ruining the club’s 150th anniversary; fans of Nottingham Forest have had enough.
The final straw seemed to come when the ‘Scottish Gareth Bale’, Oliver Burke was sold to the Red Bull franchise for £13 million. With no loan-back deal or, more importantly, a sell-on clause implemented in the transaction, this looked highly likely that there would only be two men who would really benefit from this bizarre deal. One is Burke’s agent, and the other is Al Hasawi. Although he promised to invest all of that money on new players, it was another promise broken, as all of around £300k of it was spent by the end of the window. Many fans have made their displeasure known for the past few years, but there was a fair percentage who were still backing him – hoping that he might fulfil some of those promises made back in 2012. But the Burke manoeuvre eventually turned the tide on the owner, and the fans wanted him out.
American millionaire John Jay Moore’s had been showing interest in buying a ‘soccer’ club for quite some time, failing in his attempts to purchase Swansea and Everton in the past year or so. This, alongside the general perception that Americans possesses a weak knowledge of our sport meant that his interest in Forest was met with some scepticism. But it was a risk that most Forest fans were willing to take. It certainly couldn’t have been any worse, that’s for sure.
Al Hasawi himself had claimed that he wanted out and said in an interview that he hopes the next owners will do a better job than he did. But this only seemed like a deflection tactic, as he was repeatedly caught out in regards to the terms of the sale. A reported £50 million was on the table and the deal was close. During an interview, the potential new owner came across as an honest man, as he freely admitted that whilst his knowledge of football wasn’t good, he would hire the correct personnel to run the club properly, which is something that the current regime has failed to do, time after time – and the ones that he has brought in, have all ran a mile after only a short term under his employment. It was also made known that Gary Rowett would be approached to take over at the City Ground – an appointment which would have made perfect sense. This proved that the future didn’t have to be bleak, and John Jay Moores could have been a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
But at the 11th hour, on Friday 13th, Al Hasawi pulled the plug on the whole deal. He then went on to release a statement proclaiming that the deal was not in the best interest of the club. He even had the sheer audacity to refer to Nottingham Forest as “our club”. Al Hasawi dictating what is and isn’t in the best interest of the club is absolutely absurd, and it’s no surprise at how much anger and hostility this news sparked off – especially as, shortly afterwards, Gary Rowett stated that he had no interest in joining the club under the current regime – proving that no manager worth his salt will want to work under him.
Fawaz still has a few sympathisers though, and they’re blaming Moore’s for the collapse – claiming the American was trying to drive down the price that had originally been agreed. But even if this was the case, who could blame him? If you were quoted a price for a car back in September, but you went back in January to make the purchase, you take it for a test drive and realise that the breaks don’t work, the milometer has been turned back and the previous owner has left a James Blunt album in the CD player, wouldn’t you try and get a better price? And when you look at the sale of other clubs in recent years; £50million for a Championship club (especially one in such a mess) is an unreasonable ask. And that will only buy you 80%!
No one really knows why Al Hasawi pulled the plug, but it seems quite likely that he simply does not want to sell up. Perhaps he can’t bare the thought that someone else would do a much better job. Unless an absolute ridiculous offer is made (as if the reported £50 million isn’t ridiculous enough) it looks as though he is there to stay, whilst more promises of changes and plans are made, vowing to finally hire the right people to run the club. But with talks of protests and boycotts in the near-future, this seems to be nothing but yet another conveniently-timed deflection. It’s happened too many times in the past already, and the fans aren’t falling for it this time.
To make matters worse, neighbours Notts County’s new owners have been trying to recruit the long-suffering reds fans by offering them free tickets – a further slap in the face for the club who are generally regarded as superior to their older brothers across the river. Even some Derby fans have been Tweeting their sympathy for their hated rivals’ predicament, which speaks volumes, given that there is certainly no love lost between the two clubs.
One of the big questions is though; how has Al Hasawi been allowed to get away with this for so long? Potential football club owners are supposed to pass a ‘fit and proper’ persons test before any sale can go through. So how did Al Hasawi ever manage to pass this? It clearly isn’t fit for purpose and needs some serious reviewing, before more people like Fawaz are allowed to run amok all over the English pyramid.
It has also recently been revealed that one of Fawaz’ team was allegedly questioning why the club are spending as much as they are on footballs, when you ‘can buy them for £5 from Tesco’ (other supermarkets are available). Does this really sound like an outfit that is ‘fit and proper’? Imagine the amount of stoppage time that would build up whilst a steward has to use a corner flag to fish out the Flotex that has just ballooned into the River Trent!
One thing is for sure, if all of this was going on in the top flight, the Premier League would have stepped in by now, and forced the sale through. It’s a sad state of affairs that, outside of the Premiership bubble, clubs are allowed to be mismanaged the way that they are. The takeover collapse was barely mentioned in the media, with Pogba’s Twitter hashtag deemed more newsworthy than the plight of one of England’s oldest, and most successful clubs. Even the local media, in typical fashion, are making suggestions on how Al Hasawi can ‘win back the fans’ – instead of asking the questions that they should have been asking years ago. This debacle should be front page news in Nottingham.
So what is next for Forest? They have just sacked another manager, and Billy Davies’ name has been mentioned far too many times for comfort. A third spell of ‘unfinished business’ would just about put the final nail in the coffin. Perhaps the only option left is administration. Whilst the point deduction would almost certainly drop Forest into League One, Fawaz would be forced to sell, paving the way for someone half decent to take the reigns and rescue the once-great club from this downward spiral… FC Forest of Nottingham, anyone?