With the takeover of Nottingham Forest said to be weeks away, we can only hope the ownership of John Jay Moores’ consortium is more successful than Fawaz Al Hasawi’s four years of failure
It would be unfair to say the Al Hasawi’s ownership of Nottingham Forest has been a disaster since the start. But it’s been an unmitigated disaster since Fawaz became chairman in December 2012, having fallen out with cousin Omar; something of a precedent for the next four years.
Inept, clumsy, clueless management has seen Fawaz squander over £100 million in that time. Forget what he says about ‘investment’. Imagine playing roulette, placing everything on red and, when the ball lands on black, protesting to the casino management that you’d like your ‘investment’ back. That money has been wasted in a cycle of ever-diminishing returns. Just think for a moment what that money could’ve done… Liverpool’s new 20,500-capacity main stand cost £115 million, for example.
But let’s not kid ourselves, most Championship clubs lose money. It could’ve been entirely feasible to lose some £50 million during this time and be a well-run, progressive club. We could be a Premier League club in everything but name — a respected scouting network, a refurbished ground, an experienced management team, and a Category 1 Academy (indeed Gary Brazil’s Academy and its recent graduates are the only thing worthy of respect at the moment). In other words, structure.
But what are we? A debt-laden club no closer to the top 10 of the Championship let alone the Premier League. At the moment we’re in free fall thanks to the calamitous reign of Fawaz. There has been no evidence of the infamous ‘three- to five-year plan‘; this crumbling club has had no vision, no leadership, no stability and no strategy in this time. Just a flailing hand rolling the dice every time a few results go against us, or when the sound of dissenting voices on Twitter gets too loud.
Protests often rail against the board. We don’t have a board. We have one man who appears to have neither business acumen nor football administration skills. A man who seemingly trusts no one but his inner circle of yes-men; a man who respected football people cannot work with or for.
There was a time when you at least thought Fawaz’s heart was in the right place. But the whole debacle appears just to have been a ploy to get a seat at football’s top table and lap up the accompanying adulation. Sadly, Fawaz could’ve had everything he desired by entrusting the chief executive he never employed, the manager he never kept and the players he never invested in. There were plenty of opportunities to get this right.
Our transfer policy, with a couple of notable exceptions, has been cheap deals, freebies and loans — no effort at a coherent plan, no manager here long enough to stamp his mark. We’ve had a constant turnover of players who are injury-prone or never get the chance to settle or are simply written off when the wind changes direction.
Granted, this was a club with issues in 2012. We’d been high or low for over a decade but never steady, never consistent. We’d employed managers with different approaches, played different styles, never really figured out what to do in the Championship. But 2012 was a clean slate, a chance to remedy our problems and implement a structure, a strategy and a top-to-bottom vision.
Too ambitious? Look at Crystal Palace. Or Swansea. Or Norwich. Or Burnley. Or Bournemouth. Football’s not easy, nor is life, but only a fool ignores proven best practice. And mistakes are allowed. We all wanted Fawaz to do well; we were patient for a time, perhaps hoping there would be some kind of learning curve. Emulating Leicester City’s achievement last season is nothing short of impossible, but look at how their takeover — completed in 2010 — went through its own teething problems to begin with.
If you think this is all easy with hindsight, it was laid out before the takeover. It was reiterated during this ownership. But Fawaz always thought he knew best, just keep supporting the team he said, as he made bad decision after bad decision. We could lay out the charge sheet before him — selling players behind managers’ backs, winding-up orders, late payment to suppliers, late payment to other clubs, allegations of interference, mindless sacking of managers and staff, damaging our long-standing reputation — but it all comes back to one thing: he thought it was easy, he thought he’d throw money at it and soon his ‘investment’ would see his ego boosted by promotion, Champions League riches and adulation here and at home.
He’s paid the price for that. And so have we. Finishes of eighth, 11th, 14th, 16th and now a relegation battle. You might argue we went down to League One with Nigel Doughty but the stench around the club wasn’t toxic, it wasn’t poisonous, there wasn’t the anger or the apathy that we see now and we weren’t saddled with over £100 million of debt and a want-away owner. Relegation this season would be bleak, no question.
If you think Fawaz saved us from administration, you’re writing the other interested parties out of history. If you think Fawaz is taking us into administration, relegation is that logical conclusion.
So it’s imperative now that there is a 100% takeover. It’s imperative that football and business decisions are now made, not impulsive actions made by a petulant narcissist. Change is on the horizon, and change never felt so important.