Often Partisan

Tim Andrews Interview

Two common refrains that seem to be doing the rounds around Birmingham City-related social media at the moment are that Blues are in a worse state than they were in the early nineties and that administration would be a blessing to end the current situation.

Tim Andrews, Managing Director of Hollywood Monster has been dealing with Blues as a sponsor and as a client since 1991 and is a lifelong fan of the club. As someone who has dealt with every board regime since the Kumar brothers I thought his viewpoint would be unique and that he could give a better perspective on just where the club is at. I met him last week to put some questions to him to try to better explore how Blues are different to the dark days of 1991.

Tim, what’s your earliest memory of Blues as a fan?

My earliest memory of Blues was when I was about 8 or 9 and I used to go to the game with a guy up my road whose father was a policeman. He used to get us under the turnstile, and we used to sit in the two seats right next to the dugouts every game where we used to listen to what the managers were saying and were literally right close to the action.

That’s what I remember as a kid and that’s what got me into supporting the Blues. I was surrounded by Liverpool, Leeds and Derby fans; my cousins were Derby fans and most friends at school were Liverpool fans. My dad was also a fan, he used to leave the programme for me out to read before I got up for school.

What’s your earliest memory of Blues from the business side of things?

My father and I set up Hollywood signs in 1991; my dad was working for a construction company which went through a reorganisation and they offered him the signage contract, which also had a lorry come with it.  Thus he set up a transport company and a signage business. The transport was a 7.5ton haulage firm moving stuff around the midlands. I came into the business not knowing much, apart from working weekends with my Dad. I taught myself to sign-write but I was painfully slow, I’d never have made any money out of it.

I phoned the Blues up as one of my first sales calls.  It’s quite interesting really because when I phoned the club up Bill Coldwell answered the phone; at that time he was caretaker first team manager and also general manager, receptionist – he had to do everything. He told me to come in and see him. In those days it was all about what the club could get for nothing or by offering tickets in return – I took out a season ticket  in the Wiseman Suite before the Kop was rebuilt. The first advertising hoarding we put up was under the Ansells clock; it was special to me as it was my dream to work for the club.

The main difference between then and now was involving the lorry we had; as Blues didn’t have any covers for the pitch, they had to borrow them from the Villa and Edgbaston cricket ground and we had to go and fetch them in the lorry. We also used to get mobile turnstile units from the Villa to be used when bigger gates were expected. We never used to charge them, we’d run around getting favours done and be given tickets, hospitality, shirts – that sort of thing in return.

It was also my job to go up on the main stand roof to retrieve the balls that had got stuck up there behind the sign. I used to be the one to go up on the roof to get the balls back in the week cos nobody else would do it; I was happy to do it – although I wouldn’t do it now!

It’s interesting the comparison made over covers because even now Blues only have enough growth lights to cover the goalmouths whilst at Villa Park they have enough to cover the entire pitch.

The lights have been there for only three seasons – they were one of the things the current regime brought in to help the pitch.

What was it like being involved with the club during the dark days of the collapse of the Kumar regime?

Luckily, we weren’t that affected as it was always shirts/season tickets/shirts – contra deals – instead of money being paid. Joan Hill in the commercial office was a lovely woman and she used to look after it all, used to make sure stuff was delivered. Then it all went into turmoil. There was never any money exchanging hands between us as the club never had it.

How did that change when Sullivan etc came in?

The very first thing that happened was that the lads in the commercial office said that can’t do contra deals any more – to which I replied that’s fine if you pay me in cash! However,  within six months the contra deals came back. They started to creep back because they (the Sullivan/Gold regime) didn’t have the cash. It was early days and Sullivan etc were struggling with the debts and the like.

However, there was a marked difference between the two; nobody could buy anything any more without 2/3 signatures. Disciplines were put in place to stop people buying stuff that wasn’t warranted. There were no discounts, no deals on boxes and hospitality tickets; people were told this was the price, pay it. It became a much more disciplined business.

The contra deals became fewer and further between and the price of everything went up. The cost of hoardings trebled; we went for the corners on the pitch, which strangely was one of the cheapest locations yet one of the best as the TV cameras would be static on the hoardings when corners were taken.

A lot of people used to complain about how the club was being run; a lot of fans used to voice discontent about it being all about the money – but I think that they will agree now it has to be run as a business, it has to make a profit because otherwise things start to go wrong.

Karren Brady did an excellent job, many people who worked under her said that they learned a lot from her. My dealings with her were all very professional – I was on first name terms when she first arrived and then she stopped talking to me, which put me out, I thought she doesn’t want to talk the sign man any more.

One of my first memories of Hollywood Signs at the Blues was the sponsorship of the substitution announcements. How did that come about?

It was the commercial manager at the time, Andy Billingham who gave me the idea. We started off doing goals but I got to thinking that when the opponents score goals, it didn’t sound very good; so then we did bookings.

Then Floors2Go sponsored the stretcher – everything was monetarised under KB administration. I think that there is nothing wrong with it – if there is a market for it, and someone wants to pay for it, then why not? They’ve got 20,000+ fans in the ground, not going to get much more money off them without them moaning, so you look at other ways to extract cash without affecting the fan – if they hadn’t gone through with those sorts of ideas, then the cost would have gone on the fan instead.

So does the idea of a boycott sound false? I mean, would you agree with the argument that the real money in football doesn’t come from gate receipts any more?

I think part of the budget is income on the gates; it is a sizeable part of the budget and brings in regular cashflow as well. However, the majority of cash  is tv income – and it’s only going to become larger because of the new tv companies are getting involved.

The thing that really riles me is that this money doesn’t go to the clubs – it goes to the players, the majority of it. It would have been nice to see the money invested in infrastructure – through the ranks; Blues are pretty good with the academy – how many other clubs have put so much in to their academy.

Does the wages paid to the players such as Nikola Zigic gall you?

It does – and it has made me think; I view the Blues as a client as well as being a fan. There is a commercial balance. I don’t blame the employees of the club for the Zigic thing – they were told that he had to be signed) – the owners thought he was the bees knees. If you’re going to employ a manager to do the job, then you should let him do it. It’s worth noting that Brady was very good at doing relegation clauses etc.

Do you think things are as bad now as at the end of the Kumars era?

I think the club is in a much better state than it was; there is an infrastructure in place, procedure, systems and the like. It’s a very smooth operation; to stage a football game, behind the scenes, it’s really good. And you see the way the business is commercially, you see that they’ve got award-winning hospitality and they’ve got a ground that is good enough (although it is getting tired). Remember, we were only two wins from becoming a top half Premier League side and the dividing line was that marginal.

Obviously BCFC has not caused the demise of Carson Yeung’s downfall – I know Doug Ellis turned him down when he approached the Villa – but I do argue that if someone offers you £400k for a house worth £200k you’d sell tomorrow. Sullivan and Gold knew they could get hold of West Ham, it was their opportunity to get out, If they passed the fit and proper test at FA Level then the previous board have done their job in checking them out.

Do you worry about the club going into administration and potentially losing money?

It’s a balancing line as they’re one of my oldest clients; I have a loyalty, I’m a fan, but I can’t jeopardise my business because of this. There has been a couple of times where I have believed what I read in the press and I have called Roger Lloyd (Finance Director). He’s reassured me it’s all BS and when I have requested it they have sent a cheque – every time I’ve asked for one, they’ve sent it for the whole amount. Roger is doing an admirable job.

Just imagine trying to do that job in the situation, getting people to trust you – how can you operate when there are new stories about them going under.

How do you view administration?

We lost money at Port Vale when they went into administration and yes, it does concern me, so it has to be kept to a level whereby if the club went into admin we could afford to ride it out, it’s that commercial balance. My view as a fan is that if I was trying to buy the club I’d wait for it go into administration as there is no come back, no one going to come knocking at your door.

However,  I’m really good friends with a lot of people at the club; I go out with them socially and I am invited to staff parties and I know I’d fear for their jobs. So my overall view is that I don’t want the club going into admin but a small part of me feels it would help bring in new owners and would give us a clean break.

Do these times compare to the early nineties?

They were dark days. When the club couldn’t afford to pay £100 for a sign – give us five tickets instead. It sums it up Bill Coldwell picking up the phone to me – we used to go up to the offices, which were behind where the screen is now, they were tatty, it was nice feel about it, it was friendly, and players would be in there sat with their feet on the tables.

I’m going to be talking to Tim soon about his involvement with the Blues Ladies team and how they are bringing a new dimension to the football club.


30 Responses to “Tim Andrews Interview”

  • Chris W says:

    Not sure how you do it but yet another excellent, informative interview.
    Tim Andrews gives a lot of inside information and tells us how he sees it from a commercial aspect and as a fan too.
    Mostly he seems to agree that though administration would speed the selling process up it would also mean peoples jobs are in jeopardy too.
    I have said that the only real way forward to relieve us of the current owners is administration, but I am not thinking of all those who are working tirelessly behind the scenes and people like Tim,
    We are still in a pretty good position, though not able to purchase players is going to be a major problem for LC, commercially the club is still better off than we all think.
    We just need the right investment and solid leadership at the top with someone who knows about contracts and relegation clauses.
    Well done again Dan.

  • Agent McLeish says:

    Just backs up my view about Ziggy and SGG. Can’t blame them Ziggy for his contract – it was PP who was too dumb to insert a relegation clause. Can’t blame SGG for selling to CY as he passed the ‘fit and proper’ test. The only person responsible for this sorry mess if CY.
    Would have been interesting if Deadly had sold to CY, imagine the mess that the Vile would be in now. We would probably also still be in the Prem.

    • Eddie says:

      It was Alex McLeish that got us relegated not CY!

      he was given full backing by the board with loans from Barcelona and any signings he named!

      How was relegation CY fault?

      • Chris W says:

        It was the players who got us relegated, after the fantastic day at Wembley they never turned up again.
        Then they all jumped ship back to the Premier with only Liam Ridgewell and Ben Foster remaining, if my memory is correct.
        PP and CY were responsible for not having a relegation clause written into the clubs contracts and I think that should be compulsory for ALL contracts, along with a player should not be allowed to transfer to a division higher upon relegation until, at least, the first January window.

        • chas says:

          Completely agree with Eddie and Chris.. Blame the Players , they were too up themselves.

        • bluenoseb says:

          And jerome, larsson and gardner. Out of all of them i thought dann would be the one to have the best career at prem level and quite amazed that knowone has took a punt on him from backburn especially the lower half prem teams, goes to show how much a 6month plus injury can set you back. The rest im not surprised and you might be able to add garner and larsson and jerome to all be relegated this season, and a lot of my baggie mates say if they could streghen one area it would be left back where ridgewell plays. Also goes to show that these players as a team were decent but individually all believed there own hype and not 1 has lived up to it since leaving blues, apart from kev phillips who scored a penalty for promotion at the grand age of 40!

          • Chris W says:

            I forgot them, as I said my memory, if correct, now where did I put…. Ah well … anyway….
            That is why I would suggest that wages are reduced to reflect the league you are in and that players should be made to play for that club that they were relegated with for the first transfer window at least.
            Then it would give the relegated team the chance of an automatic return, something the blues never had as they all jumped ship or CY panicked into selling, that is what the parachute payment is used for to assist with wages…. anyway, where did I….

      • Flying Doctor says:

        The multitude of cup games was the main reason we got relegated. They took their toll on the squad. Same thing happened the following season whem we missed out on promotion.

      • Agent McLeish says:

        Now hang on Eddie! Exactly where did I say that CY was responsible for relegation! Please read again – should have gone to Specsavers.

  • Aussieblue says:

    That’s a great interview Dan and Tim sounds like a super nice bloke with a very shrewd business brain. The admin question is a horrible one to face and Tim summed it up well in that it offers a clean break but the human toll can be high. I’ve always advocated avoiding admin/receivership wherever possible but voluntary admin is better than forced admin by a creditor or the tax department. Unfortunately (and Tim would be aware of this in the printing/sign industry), some elements take advantage of admins by buying back the assets in ‘Prepack’ or ‘Phoenix’ operations to wipe out debts and start again. So long as we have at least some cash and can pay bills BCFC should hang in for new ownership, without admin and with reduced debts now Carson is converting his $15 mill into equity. Our precious club is a prize asset for the right owner/investors!
    Anyway, well done Dan and Tim – great reading this interview. Keep those VuteK’s and HPs spinning Tim! And check out the Fujifilm Uvistar Pro8 (aka Matan) – fantastic productivity & quality; selling like hot cakes here in Oz. 5M but you can run 3 x 1600 rolls side by side at incredible throughput.

  • Heatonblue says:

    Isn’t it great to have a “fan” like Tim,who loves the club as we do….
    Shame he hasn’t got mega dough,as that’s the kind of owner we need….
    People like us,people who care.

  • Graham says:

    Nice read of a local lad doing well, fair play.

  • Frankie says:

    Excellent piece that and an eye opener also.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    These are the kind of interviews I love to read. Many thanks. Makes a nice change from the doom and gloom of the court case.

  • mark says:

    I hope a lot more noses read this Daniel……………. some fans cannot remember then our stadium was a complete sh*t hole…………..Tim even noted there fans bloody moaning………….Totally agree our stadium has come on leaps and bounds since then… I fully endorse Tim hard work, and the staff to the tea lady we will never let you down, you all make us so proud to arrive at our stadium…………

  • pipsy says:

    Superb article Dan, Must agree with Eddie’s article It was Alex McLeish that got us relegated not CY!
    he was given full backing by the board with loans from Barcelona and any signings he named!
    How was relegation CY fault?

  • mark says:

    the only cock-up was not putting a relegation clause in ziggy contract, they obviously rated him very highly…………….imo ziggy should be the one running around working his bollox, and earning his money…
    If he is fit i would expect nothing less………..

  • chas says:

    Reading that , Well done to yourself and to Tim Andrews for a very balanced article. One point that stands out for me is where he says about the Bull Shit emanating from people. That as much as anything will damage the Club.. A shame that some fans just have to start rumours without thinking of the consequences.

    • mark says:

      Chas-with this in mind there always a blame culture because its to satisfy their need to blame anyone and anything……………………not once had Tim mentioned he would stop being a fan or boycott the club……………. support your team and your club……………..kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Unfortunately, it like the tabloids… if there’s no real news, they’ll make it up. “Why spoil a good story just because there’s no truth in it” is the motto.

  • Chris W says:

    Why not, they are all as important to the running of BCFC.
    I was introduced to a company employee once and they said “I am only a cleaner” I told them they were more important than me, I am only a figure head and my work is rarely seen whereas yours is seen everyday and is probably the first impression you make to the company.
    Have you noticed how dirty the loo’s are after a game, someone has to clean them and I bet they have some interesting tales to tell too.

  • bluegraham says:

    chas the owners could have stopped any rumours with statements to the fans through the club and local press. They did/do nothing, imo I wonder why ?

    • chas says:

      No they couldn’t have , Graham.. I am referring to Fans, not Reporters, who are for ever moaning about things and making up stories that they supposedly heard down the Pub/Match/ wherever. Even when the Club has come out and categorically denied the rumours there has still been people who are prepared to deny the Statements. You only have to read some of the Posts on here to see that.

  • TBone says:

    Always wondered who the brave souls were that retrieved the balls from the Main Stand roof!

  • Art Watson says:

    I can well remember the Kumar regime it was awful.

    As a birthday present I paid £40 for my daughter to lead the team out at a Saturday home match.The mascot package included the team strip plus a tour of the dressing room and a photo with her favourite player who I think at the time was a very young Simon Sturridge..

    I can’t describe the excitement on her face when she arrived at the ground and 15 members of my family turned up to support her.You can image the bitter feeling of disappointment when the her strip arrived with different coloured socks and despite numerous phone calls we never got to see the photograph.

    The following day she spent most of the time in bed suffering from food poisoning which we believe was due to a contaminated meat pie.

    Dark days but not as bad as the Ken Weldon era -he even removed some of the light bulbs in the main stand to save money .

    Those were the days!

  • glosblue says:

    On the question of who was responsible for our relegation from the Premiership,has anyone else noticed that since the points allocation was changed some years ago from 2pts for a win and 1 each for a draw (ie ‘sharing’ the points) to an illogical 3pts for a win, we have twice suffered as a result. On the last occasion if it had been 2pts for a win and 1 for a draw Wolves would have been relegated instead of Blues because we drew a large number of games that season. Football should take a lead from Rugby Union where teams get 4pts for a win and share 2 each for a draw (again this would have kept us up). Bonus points could even be awarded for scoring, say, 3 or more goals in a match. Just a thought.

  • John Baker says:

    What a great read that was for the true-blue fan.

    “I used to go to the game with a guy up my road whose father was a policeman. He used to get us under the turnstile, and we used to sit in the two seats right next to the dugouts every game where we used to listen to what the managers were saying and were literally right close to the action.”

    Two things . . . so the Copper was bent, and Tim learnt all of his swear words from football league managers instead of the toilet wall . . . I’m envious!

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