The silent treatment: Forest fail to explain their financial strategy, but expect fans to cough up

by , July 29, 2015

Dougie Freedman has broken silence about Forest’s standing with Financial Fair Play, but when will Fawaz Al-Hasawi and ‘head of finance’ Lalou Tifrit explain the mess they have created?

Back in February, when Fawaz Al-Hasawi was threatening to throw his toys out of the pram, I ended my denunciation of the chairman on a positive note, praising the appointment of Dougie Freedman. Given othe Financial Fair Play embargo that had just been imposed, I felt Dougie’s experience at other clubs with limited transfer capabilities (albeit for different reasons) made him a strong choice – and his interview with the Nottingham Post on Monday, calmly explaining how he was approaching the short- and medium-term futures with regards to player acquisition has only re-enforced my initial judgement.

However, while it’s great to see the manager being so frank about the incommodious situation we find ourselves in, I can’t help wondering one thing – why is it Dougie’s job to make this statement at all? The way Freedman explains it, it’s as if Fawaz has put the whole responsibility of manoeuvring out of the FFP embargo on the manager’s shoulders. While I thought Dougie would be good at handling a limited transfer budget, it hardly seems fair to ask him to act as a one-man PricewaterhouseCoopers, auditing the club, performing a wholesale restructuring and keeping the debtors calm throughout the process.

The debtors in this case, metaphorically, are we supporters. The debt we are owed is not necessarily financial, but a repayment of some of the vast amounts of faith and patience we’ve given to the club in recent years. There has, of course, been significant financial investment on our part too – and, staggeringly, this season we’re even being asked to up our contributions. An explanation of the club’s standing with the FFP regulations and news of a strategy to escape the embargo has been long overdue, yet while we’ve waited for it, the club have asked us to fork out for increased season tickets or £32 match tickets. In no other field would a failing business have the cheek to ask its investors for further capital while neglecting to make a single statement about the direction it was heading in.

The truth is, if Forest are going to ask us to dig deeper into our pockets to help the club out of the FFP quagmire – which many will be willing to do – then it must repay us, not in money, but with some respect. Without doubting his good intentions, Fawaz Al-Hasawi has led Forest into a situation where we, along with Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United (and let’s not even get onto the touchy subject of QPR), are in a minority of clubs to have failed FFP assessments and suffered a transfer embargo as a result. We may gripe about the legitimacy of the FFP rules, but the company we’re now keeping shows that the regulations are effective in one way – identifying clubs being run in a truly farcical manner.

The fact that it falls to a manager who has been at the club for less than six months to issue the only statements about our financial future to be made in that time says so much about the farcical approach at Forest. Our ‘head of finance’, according to the club’s website, is someone called Lalou Tifrit, whose name only seems to appear in the press connected with disputes with Stuart Pearce and Paul Faulkner. In fact, we know less about this man than we did Billy Davies’ accomplice Jim Price who seemed to be running the club for a period – at least Price was on Twitter!

Surely, rather than Dougie Freedman, it should be the job of Mr Tifrit – whose LinkedIn profile mentions FFP on the first line – to be making statements about the club’s financial strategy? Or, in fact, offering his resignation having spectacularly failed in his main responsibility? Meanwhile the chairman fiddles the cheerful tune of the club’s 150th anniversary as his Rome burns. At least Fawaz mentions the “restrictions placed upon us” in his programme notes for our pre-season friendlies – it’s reassuring to see he’s actually aware of them, but of course there is no word about what is being done to lift those restrictions. The irony of his closing remarks – “The club website and social media channels will keep supporters up to date” – is laughable.

The bottom line is this: Forest are asking too much of their supporters at the moment, both in terms of money we must cough up for tickets and patience we must have in waiting for some meaningful word about the club’s finances. These unreasonable demands will inevitably see gates at the City Ground drop dramatically this season, leading to both a loss of revenue and a lack of support for the team, neither of which we can afford to bear this season. Whatever the club hierarchy have planned in order to conform with FFP – assuming we believe Freedman’s assertion that this is what they intend – step one of their plan seems to be to piss off an already highly frustrated and disillusioned fanbase by giving us the silent treatment.

On reflection, judging by what we’ve seen of their bungling strategy so far, it’s no wonder they are keeping quiet about it…