The takeover saga at Nottingham Forest has come to a sorry end. On Friday night, chairman and owner Fawaz Al Hasawi landed the bombshell that his negotiations with American buyers, which had been ongoing for months, had collapsed.
As is the case with most of the controversies of the Fawaz era, we don’t really know what has happened behind the scenes.
The controversial Kuwaiti, who took ownership of the club in the summer of 2012 after the death of owner Nigel Doughty, has overseen many instants of embarrassing blunders and club mismanagement.
A few moments stand out in his impressive list of blunders – a CV that even the owners of Coventry or Blackburn might envy.
There are his attempts to implement a hierarchical structure in the day to day running of the club, only for the executives to resign around 3 months later.
In 2014/15, the club was placed under a transfer embargo for failing to meet the Football League’s Financial Fair Play Rules – and the ban was later extended when Forest failed to pay Peterborough for £5.5 million striker Britt Assombalonga.
Earlier this season, the Nottinghamshire County Council reduced the capacity of the City Ground, until someone was appointed by the club to hold the building’s safety certificate.
At other times, players have complained about being paid late, or Forest have faced court action from local businesses for not paying their bills, the excuse on one occasion being that it was a Kuwaiti bank holiday.
Then there are the comings and goings of players and managers clouded in mystery. We might never really know what caused the souring of the relationship between Al Hasawi and the once loved Billy Davies.
An injury crisis and a suspected fallout between the chairman and manager over the playtime of two new Algerian signings – Rafik Djebbour and Djamel Abdoun – saw a string of 14 matches unbeaten quickly turn to 3 successive defeats. A media blackout from Davies ensued amidst the downturn in relations with his boss. And after a horrible 5-0 loss to Derby County, ‘King Billy’ was no more.
More recently the summer sale of academy product Oliver Burke turned the few remaining Fawaz supporters against him. Of the £13 million that was raised through the sale, only £300,000 was reinvested on buying players.
Al Hasawi made the contradictory assertion that the funds were both available for the manager to spend, or could be used to help the club avoid FFP regulations.
It is somewhat fitting that the last moment of real progress and optimism, during Al-Hasawi’s time at Forest was in a 2-2 draw at home to Leicester, the last game of that 14 match unbeaten run.
It’s fair to say that as those two sides met at the City Ground that February evening both were in a similar position aiming for promotion, yet since then both clubs went on to experience the reverse of the other’s fortunes.
Now things have reached a new low. It was widely expected that a consortium led by American John Jay Moores would take ownership of the football club. Over the course of the holidays there were rumours of delays, but nothing serious.
But on Friday 13th, typically, the club announced that these talks had fallen through at the final stages. Fawaz’s statement revealed little as to what had happened. Rumours have been flying around that Moores tried to negotiate a lower price in light of the team’s drop towards the relegation zone. Others have pointed out that Moores has previously tried and failed in two earlier bids to buy Swansea and Everton.
It leaves the club in a dire and depressing situation. Moores reportedly had Gary Rowett lined up to take over in the dugout and executives ready to go in an organised structure that the club so desperately needs.
But now the club is left in a dark and decisive moment in its history. There is nothing to suggest that Al Hasawi has any alternative sale options close. The club is stuck with just him again, in the middle of a transfer window where no one knows whether the owner will choose to sell off assets or invest any money in a bid to prevent relegation.
In the aftermath of the failed takeover, Phillippe Montanier – who would never have survived this long if not for the ownership talks – was finally relieved of his duties.
The team need a manager with championship experience who can organise them and hopefully get more out of the players than just 2 clean sheets in 26 games.
It’s hard to see any sensible man putting himself in such a risky job – but it’s been shown before that Forest’s name still attracts plenty of interest even when its reputation seems so low. They also need to hang onto players and maybe make some additions. If these things can’t be achieved I have serious doubts that Forest will stay up.
It’s got to the point, however, where being in League 1 next season isn’t even my greatest fear as a Forest fan. My first thought is: ‘will it get even worse?’ Fans now worry for the actual survival of the club itself.
The current owner can’t seem to complete a sale of the club after two failed attempts. If he isn’t able to keep Forest in the Championship, and is unwilling to financially support the team, simply being relegated to League 1 might turn out to be the least of fans’ concerns.