Birmingham City have a club anthem which outlines a tough time – a journey filled with joys and sorrows – which is about as apt as it is ironic now.
The club have been docked nine points for breaches of Financial Fair Play, under the section they’ve most probably made up this week without the loopholes afforded to clubs with more prominent branding stature and better-known billionaire owners.
Nine points is a metric. So is 14 – the number of weeks the idiot who attacked Jack Grealish will spend in jail. Some other important numbers include 12 – the number of years since the Blues have been run in a sustainable manner; seven – the number of games in both St Andrew’s and Villa Park that have been played between the sides without a Birmingham win in the league; 17 – the number of years since Birmingham have scored more than twice against their second city rivals – and four – the number of Championship games they’ve lost on the bounce.
It’s true that football is about numbers. The very essence of the sport is a scoreline that dictates who wins and who loses.
But Birmingham are a rare example of a modern-day football club where something purer bypasses that which can be measured.
Perhaps of any club in the top two tiers, Birmingham can boast the highest percentage of their home support being considered ‘hardcore’. That’s probably good ammo for opposition fans to bate them with – that they’d find it hard to convince anyone to watch them otherwise, but again – forget the numbers.
Birmingham City are now the precedent for this battle between numbers and everything intangible in football.
While PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid and countless others continue to spend more than they can conceivably internally generate, none of them will be punished because the numbers they can manipulate externally dictate the figures those in power choose to ignore.
Birmingham City are a proper football club and while many may laugh at their predicament – after all, the issue isn’t with the punishment as it’s probably fair – any jest is actually a slap in the face of football mattering more than the passionless funding being pushed into it by indifferent investment.
The Small Heath-based club will likely lose future England international Che Adams this summer, which will ultimately tip the balance sheets back in their favour. But, it’s not relevant.
Players come and go, as do fines; as do point deductions, as do managers – but the battle to fight off crooked ownership and football clubs turning into a hedge fund is very much ongoing.
This could be any club whose owners don’t carry out proper practice. By the way, who is it exactly that screens any potential buyers of football clubs in England again? Oh yeah.
St. Andrew’s crowds will decrease over the next month or so because that taste of promotion promise is now gone. But, that’s only a small number.
For Birmingham City, their identity matters more; their history (or lack thereof) matters more because it’s ingrained in people from that area. This crisis is just another in a long-running series of bad management from upstairs.
All previous discrepancies have been taken in supporters’ strides and they will continue to be just that.
However, Birmingham City cannot be the butt of your jokes. The issues affect anyone who cares about football and the plight that the Blues now face is a universal threat to clubs who simply don’t have external finance to pump in.
The Football League has created an environment whereby you have to live outside your means to remain in any way competitive or embrace obscure ownership that should be vetting closely and that can land you in even bigger trouble down the line.
However, the aforementioned club anthem also finishes on a positive note – that regardless of the perils, you will arrive at the end of the road.
As is the case with modern football, sometimes the only thing that those most faithful can do is to keep right on.