What future for Nottingham Forest?

November 11, 2015 12 Comments »

The Derby result was just a sticking plaster for many fans concerned about the future of Nottingham Forest. Elliott Stanley reflects upon the apathy that some supporters feel and wonders what the way forward will be

It’s with growing apathy that I approach, and invest in, the on-field results of our beloved club. That apathy, bizarrely, accentuates the anger and disappointment with which I view the overall state of Nottingham Forest.

It’s not that I don’t see the rationale behind the recent calls for Dougie Freedman to become the latest in a long line of management failures. It just pales into insignificance when I widen the lens a little. It’s becoming difficult to care who the owner’s current scapegoat is. I only really cared the last time out because it happened to be a man I held, and still hold, in the highest regard possible (and I still haven’t forgiven Fawaz for luring Stuart Pearce into his circus before dispatching him with such a startling lack of respect it is still hard to believe it happened even today).

When Omar, Abdulaziz and Fawaz Al Hasawi swept into the City Ground in July 2012 it was, predictably, with beaming smiles all round and copious talk of restoring the glory days on the banks of the Trent. Talk, as they say, is cheap; and never a truer a sentence was uttered than is evidenced in the years that have followed for Nottingham Forest.

The wealth of evidence available to the prosecution in this case is staggering. From multiple winding-up petitions to embarrassing forays into social media spats with rival fans through to sanctioning media blackouts, it’s been the sort of stuff that would fill ‘A Dummies Guide to Ruining a Business’ from cover to cover.

Any fan willing to be honest will probably admit that they’ve overlooked much of this evidence, rationalised that it can be put down to a genuine mistake or a misunderstanding of culture in the ever-diminishing hope that the club wasn’t really being run into the ground.

It’s probably time we were all honest with ourselves. Fawaz is not the messiah. Sadly, for us, he’s not even a very naughty boy. In my opinion he’s an incompetent, wayward, naive owner and chairman who has done significant, possibly long-term, damage to the club.

As I pen these thoughts I am sat in The Pitchside Bar at Stadium:MK. It’s a bit like the Pitch Sports Diner at the City Ground. Except there are people here. Actual customers. People handing over money. Every single pound moves the MK Dons further away from any FFP issues. There are conferences here weekly. There are people putting money into this place seven days a week. A far cry from the commercial train wreck that is Nottingham Forest. The PDF brochure inviting potential customers to host conferences at the ground looks like something from the mid-90s. A tech-savvy eight-year-old could probably knock up something better over lunch on their iPad Air. I think my two-and-a-half-year-old could have a decent go at matching it for aesthetic prowess.

Aside from a few refurbs what has Fawaz done to improve the business revenue of the club? He can invest in the stadium, the infrastructure, the commercial offerings without having any impact on FFP. A man as wealthy, and seemingly as fancy free with his money, as Mr Al Hasawi would surely be pushing that off-field agenda? It’s in the long-term interests of the club as a viable business. The key in that sentence is long-term.

The evidence that Fawaz is not interested, not willing or altogether incapable of growing Nottingham Forest into a commercial success is stacked higher than the Al Hamra Tower in his homeland. I admit to having little idea over his part in growing the family air-conditioning business; but on the balance of probability you have to say his business acumen whilst custodian of our club suggests he played something between little and no part in the success of the family business.

When I sat in the Robin Hood Suite listening to Stuart Pearce, Paul Faulkner and Chris Cohen talk about the direction the club was heading when the 2014/15 season was in its infancy, I can genuinely say I have never, as a grown adult, felt so positive about the club. We had reopened and embraced communication channels with supporters. Our CEO had an enthusiasm for the future that suggested he saw the potential for commercial growth. On the pitch we were flying high. When I look back it was obvious then that Stuart was not a manager, but was perfect for the DoF role; one can only hope that such an outcome may, one day, be feasible.

What a spectacular fall from grace it has been since then. Perhaps the saddest, most enthusiasm-sapping element of this sorry tale is that I have no idea how it ends. I cannot see a way out. The debt is growing and is saddled against the club (upwards of £65m on the last accounts). At some point the ‘new manager bounce’ won’t come to fruition and we won’t avoid relegation. How we recover from that, again, I do not know.

I can be unequivocal, however, in saying I believe it is in the best interests of the club that Fawaz Al Hasawi leaves at the earliest possible opportunity. I will also say that I believe he owes it to us to clear the debt he has accumulated. I am not, however, naive enough to think he will. Despite that, I maintain it is better he goes, and whatever pain is to come, we take it now. Under his leadership, and it is an insult to the word to call it such, things will only get worse.

  • Peachy

    Depressingly accurate summary of the current state of Nottingham Forest. We’re being left behind.

  • Tom Harding

    Absolutely 100% what I think. I agree with every single letter of that.

    • Lee Peter

      Then you to are wrong, his facts are not accurate, my reply In comments is.

  • John Michael White

    For someone seemingly not happy with scapegoating this is a fine piece of scapegoating, and when tied in with “I’m ignorant of things but I’ll make sweeping statements about them anyway.” it paints quite a picture.

    All you can ask of an owner is to back the manager to the extent that he or she has promised when communicating to fans. That’s what Fawaz has done. All else is nonsense. Minor court issues, social media – all nonsense for people who think twitter’s actually important.

    If Fawaz had have come in and said we’re going to reduce our outgoings to match our incomings, and make the “business” one that broke even there would have been riots and a downward spiral that would have seen at least one relegation while he balanced the books.

    He’s made mistakes, sure, he’s human, and isn’t hindsight marvelous when pointing them out? It’s time some people grew up. There isn’t a magic wand to be waved to guarantee success, no formula to ensure forward progression. If there was every club would implement it and yet still three would go down.

    It’s time some accepted that all a good owner can do is hire a manager, back the manager, and hope he works. If it doesn’t you give someone else a go. That’s it.

    At some point we’ll either go up or go down. The idea that hounding decent people with their heart in the right place will somehow help ensure it’s one not the other is pernicious.

    If someone wants Fawaz out then they should buy the club. If they can’t afford to do that they should respect a guy who’s put his money where his mouth and sees the football club as something to put money into, not extract out of.

    If you love the club turn up, support the players who are putting in a shift, and keep your fingers crossed. If you’re loyal you’re loyal, if you’re not you’re not. If you want to support a “commercial success” then go get an Apple T-Shirt and cheer on the latest iPhone release. All else is poppycock for the self-important.

    • Will Simpson

      Absolute rubbish. An owner can and should do more.

      He appoints people to do key roles in order to realise his vision of how the club is run. He doesn’t try and do it all himself.

      He backs his manager to the extent that he can, not so beyond what he can that the club is under embargo.

      If he wants to spend money he invests it in areas that aren’t covered by FFP but bring benefits to the FFP position or in the academy.

      He shows more sense than to release a hunting photo the week after a massive public outcry about hunting, irrespective of your own view of the twitterati that’s who he panders to, he should be more dignified and intelligent in his use as owner of NFFC. And that’s a position he chose, no one forced it on him, you can no longer act the way he does if that’s where you choose to put yourself.

      The club is on its arse, I highly doubt the Antonio money is still around with the money spent on how many more signings since he left plus our existing “not a cat in hells chance of passing FFP” position, we’re in embargo for the foreseeable future.

      A future where financial mismanagement has led our squad to be a mish mash of players out of form or fitness that clubs are willing to let go out on the cheap to get back to their peak.

      No thanks.

  • Lee Peter

    I really despise post’s like this, why? I’ll tell you why. Because what it fails to also tell you is how previous owners handled the club.
    6 petitions were filed against Nottingham forest under Al Hasawi regime, 2 were deleted due to one, wanting far more money than they were actually owed, and the other was a mess up by HMRC.
    Now under Doughty we had 80, yes 80 winding up petitions, and even more before he took control. Also remember the time the City Council was actually going to lock us out of the ground due to unpaid rent, now that was embarrassing.
    Now onto the money owed, It says £65M Its actually £60.5M with £45M being to the Al Hasawi’s which they are kind enough not to charge any Interest on the loans, and have also said It does not have to be paid back until the club are In a better place financially. When Doughty died we owed him £75M in non interest free loans!!! I won’t even get started on the managers he appointed like Platt and how much money he blew!
    When another owner Nigel Wray took over, we had £25M in the bank, by the time he departed we were £20M In the red.
    So please If your going to criticise our owner make sure 1, your facts are correct and 2, please put previous owners activities as not to appear biased against Fawaz, because thats clearly what you are.
    And remember, If Fawaz walks, you can say bye bye to the top players, as they will all go, and who will actually buy a struggling club, under embargo, paying high wages and bank roll the club to the tune of nearly a million a month?

    • Chris Ellis

      Top reply, short sighted fans will mean league 1 or 2 status with zero cash to finance any rapid climb. Like Fawaz or not, he has bank rolled the club and continues to do so. Just think how much cash and freedom Stuart had during his short tenure with us.

    • Bob

      Yeah, make sure your facts are correct. Like the fact Doughty didn’t appoint David Platt. Eric Barnes did.

  • martin

    it is sad to say you are right, 100%, he needs to go and further more settle the dept, the only way forward would be for some ex players to buy the club, at least that way they understand what is needed

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    In short: I’m still disappointed with the dismissal of Stuart Pearce and will list as much factual and imagined evidence as I can to justify the the removal of the man who sacked him.

  • Steve Haberfield

    whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion, i couldnt disa gree more with Elliot. contrary to popular belief, there is not a long line of people wanting to buy football clubs, even less for a mid table 2nd division team. The actual debt is 60.5 million and most of that is owed to the owners, not quite sure where you are going to find someone willing to pay the owners their 60.5 million and then invest a similar amount over the next 3/4 years like they have done. Now I’m not saying for one moment that Fawaz and Co are exemplary, sure they have made mistakes, sure they have taken gambles that have not paid off,and alot of that stems from the fact he is eagre to get the club into the premiership, still doesnt alter the fact nobody and i mean nobody is about to poppy up 121 million quid.
    One thing everybody seems to forget though its not our club, its not Fawaz’s club, he is the keyholder and we are the guardians for the next generation

  • d.attard

    With Fawaz at the helm we have financial stability, a steady squad that will become stronger as the injured return, youth being part of the set-up, some top results against leading sides, hard season yes but look at how the real supporters held the side afloat in the final 15 minutes when only their guts could get us a famous win. grumble against Fawaz? To me it sounds as if the writer has ignored the huge cost of pre-Fawaz mistakes.