Sam Hammam Thank You - Cardiff City
Sam Hammam's tenure as Cardiff City Chairman is over but the position he has left the club in is vastly different to when he took over. The eccentric Lebanese businessman took over at Cardiff in 2000 when the club were in the third division (now Coca-Cola league 2) and installed Bobby Gould as manager as well as providing immediate funds for team strengthening. The likes of Gabbidon and Spencer Prior were early signings of the Sam Hammam era and City were soon promoted. More signings followed including club record acquisitions of Graham Kavanagh (£1 million) and Peter Thorne (£1.7 million). Not all signings prospered for City such as Michael Simpkins and David Hughes and City were labelled as big-spending but without the results to match. Managers came and went for City but when Lennie Lawrence succeeded Alan Cork he was able to take Cardiff into the Championship for the first time in many years.
It was then that the huge debt accrued by Sam and the board was revealed with staggering figures of £30 million being banded about in the press. Hammam was accused of gambling the clubs future for personal gain, and his 100% assurances that the 'Crown Jewels' would not be sold were broken as Earnshaw departed to West Brom to stave off administration. Hammam lost the faith and support of the City fans but refused to quit and has seemingly steering the club forward in a far more conservative manner. The recruitment of Peter Ridsdale was crucial and subsequently led to Dave Jones' appointment as manager. City have recovered to an even financial footing and sit at the top of the Championship with a small but talented squad and a proven and shrewd manager. The business plan for the new stadium is in place and that is down, in no small way, to the determination and dedication of Hammam. He has been instrumental in the stadium project and his long term ambition of securing Premiership football to Wales and Cardiff City. Comments that Cardiff were a 'bigger club than Barcelona' raised eyebrows but none so bushy as Hammam's and he was unwavering in his love for Cardiff City.
Hammam certainly made mistakes but few could doubt that he cares about the club and has transformed them during his reign. Sam has stepped aside now as he recognises that he no longer has the financial assets to realise his dream but has succeeded in making the club marketable enough and demonstrating the potential of the club so as others, who do have the money, are prepared to take a gamble. Sam has sold his 82% majority shareholding to a consortium of unknown investors (represented by Keith Harris, chairman of Seymour Pierce) which has agreed to clear half of Cardiff's £24m debt and secure a move to a new £35m all-seater stadium, key to the club's future and to keeping Dave Jones at the club.
Ex-Leeds Utd chairman Peter Ridsdale is the new Chairman and explained: 'It had to happen to fulfil our Premiership dream.'
Many many thanks to Sam Hammam, we owe him a lot and the progress made in just 6 years, while frustrating at times, has been fantastic. A hands-on chairman throughout he has given much to Cardiff City FC and set-up numerous meetings with the fans and sold his plans to them at every chance. He was also responsible for persuading several of out bigger name signings to join simply with his ambition and drive. Many many thanks Sam Hammam and we hope to see you down at Ninian Park, and the new stadium, in the future.