On Thursday evening Chris (AKA Mrs Brown ) and myself were invited to attend a media an fan meeting at St Andrews. The meeting was designed to provide some further clarity on the current situations and structure at the club and it didn’t let us down.
The session was opened up by Dale Moon and an explanation of what was to come. The first thing discussed and before we moved to the stadium issues was an apology, an apology for not running this type of session previously and also for not issuing more communications. This was a start none of us expected and I applaud the management team present for acknowledging what opportunities had been missed. Edward spoke and raised that to much time had passed without communication with fans and that now was the time for change. He described us all as one family who want the same thing and that was progression. Its also worth noting that as Edward stated its Chinese culture to complete actions and then talk about them and not talk and then do. To come out so early and cover this helped settle people.
The stadium issues – The Upper Tiers
We were all aware that issues had been found that resulted in the full closure of the Kop and Tilton, however it wasn’t until the Project Manager Michael Moran took us through some slides that we understood the full extent. To say we were shocked by what we were presented with is an understatement :
- The initial 300 Bolts that were spotted for repair ended up at over 1000 but that was the tip of the iceberg.
- Excavation work was needed in areas of the fixtures as a build up of silt and demolition rubbish meant that access to structures was limited. As this is now a health and safety requirement work was needed before anything else could happen which lead to the first delay
- New steel brackets were required to be specially designed and built as some of the bolts where corrosion or not being present were inaccessible – 2nd delay
- One picture showed holes around where bolts should have been secured and further instances of these were found. All of these needed repointing before any sign off could be given
- Shortage of materials led to delays. At one point everyone in the management team was trying to source items with Edward going to firms to collect items to help.
- The workforce needed to complete the updates was specialist. We needed rope climbers and specially trained excavators to complete the work and due to the Pandemic this was hard to find. Some the team normally worked on oilrigs but stayed to complete the upper work phase. The workmen completed 11 hour days sometimes 7 days a week to get the upper phase completed and also begin preparation for the lower tiers. The teams were also incentivised to help us get to the day when the upper areas could be opened. The final cost of this phase alone came in 5 times greater the first review
The lower Tiers
Michael talked us through some of the additional work that had been found whist the initial phase was being completed, infact it was the proverbial can of worms being opened.
- Some of the lower steel structures had corroded due to standing water and through beams being left against old groundworks
- Parts of the old stands were still in place. On many pictures we could see concrete that had been smashed up but instead if removed was just left in place. This caused access issues and as new regulation’s stated access was required throughout further work was needed
- Silt had moved and built up against platforms that needed to be cleared – further delays. One short video showed a workman having to slide on his stomach to get to the next area for work
So what can be done ?
The list of additional tasks just kept coming and helped to highlight just how bad things were. The remaining work on the lower tiers is currently out for tender but its far to say its not an easy job. To get to some of the areas for repair seats and whole concrete slabs will need to be removed. There are three options being looked into by the firm. The first would be to maintain the original steel by sandblasting and the galvanising the beam. The second option is to clean the steel and then encase this in reinforced concrete, this is the quickest option. The third option would be to remove all steel works and rebuild. This would obviously take longer and be substantially more expensive
Michael was asked for a time frame for completion of this work and also whether remedial work required could also align to Safe standing areas. It was confirmed that Safe standing is an option that is not being ruled out however number 1 priority is getting the stands open. We all agreed that it would make sense to complete works and safe standing at the same time if this was possible.
It was asked whether the repair work would be completed on phases to allow sections to open one at a time, This was confirmed as being the approach being looked at and not a all at once opening. In terms of timeframes nothing firm could be given as the tenders had not yet come back, these are expected in the near future and at that point and after a decision is made timeframes could given. It was asked whether next season would be a likely timeframe and this was said to be everyone’s aspiration.
Questions around why these had not been seen before were raised and it was confirmed that they had not been previously reported and that through the initial works these had been found, costs were asked about with these initially being covered by BSHL.
Part 2 on funding and transfer strategy to come.
Why this could not have been communicated to fans before l don’t know.
need to understand a little about Chinese cultural norms .kro
Thanks Craig a great piece to read that simplifies it. I look forward to the next installation.
Blues fans will be tolerent as long as communication is given “in any circumstances”,its got so bad with no one communicating that there is now a rebellion and protests,and this has been self inflicted by those running the club.When we pay at the turnstiles we expect our money to be invested in the club and kept upto date with whats happening,its our club,and we need to know where its going and what the furure holds,so please dont be shy and keep the fans informed,more communication is essential
The only positive thing was to see what is or was wrong with the ground. Nothing else, and please don’t be naieve here. It was called to deflect from the oncoming protests etc. DO NOT BE FOOLED. Now they will start blaming yet another manager.
Thanks Craig for a great explanation. I look forward to your next episode.
My first thoughts, when the Tilton and Kop Stands were initially closed following a safety audit by the City Council in December 2020, were that material specifications and lack of preventative maintenance were fundamental to building regulations. This information is well documented (my background is metallurgical engineering).
The photographs and anecdotal evidence presented by Michael Moron are also extremely concerning.
The root cause of failure, in my opinion, appears to be poor foundation work for initial installation of the stands and lack of adequate drainage systems (my apologies for stating the obvious).
Firstly, how did Birmingham City Council initially agree to sign off the building plans? These are questions which also need to be directed to the previous Directors of BCFC in 1994.
Secondly, why did it take 26 years to identify the problem if regular safety audits were presumably undertaken on at least an annual basis?
The remedial repair options are even more complex because these will require removal of the existing steel work either in sections or a total rebuild exercise. It will be a project extending past next season. Funding will surely be the responsibility of the new owners of St. Andrew’s ground? Perhaps Daniel Ivery (aka “almajir”) would like to comment?