David Conn: Hammam's image changes at indebted Cardiff

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The Independent Football

The feelings of many Cardiff City fans towards the club's owner, Sam Hammam, could now be summed up by a version of a famous line from Monty Python's Life of Brian. He is no longer the messiah, but a very naughty boy.

Stewards and police had to usher Hammam through an angry crowd of around 100 fans after Tuesday's 1-0 home loss to Ipswich, which left the Bluebirds level with Gillingham, who occupy the third relegation place.

Cardiff, who have debts of £31m, sold their captain, Graham Kavanagh, just to pay February's wage bill, have laid off shop staff, scrapped their scouting system and asked the Professional Footballers' Association for a loan to help with next month's wages. Hammam, who invested £3.14m in 2000, is under pressure for having funded Cardiff's revival with massive loans and because his company has now been revealed to have been paid large amounts of money.

The accounts for May 2004, just published, a year in which the club lost £9m, show that Hammam's company, Rudgwick, which owns the club, was paid £583,000 by Cardiff for "supplying management services". The previous year, Cardiff paid Rudgwick £300,000.

It is difficult to see what those payments can be for, apart from Sam Hammam's time. They do not include paying professionals for working on the Leckwith Stadium project - their fees were separately itemised at £2.7m.

Rudgwick also lent £1.68m to the club at a high rate of interest, six per cent over base, a loan which was "replaced" in full last September. Other directors made loans in the same year, but at three per cent over base.

All requests for Sam Hammam to explain these payments, including an inquiry from me, have so far been met with silence.

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