Theatre lover Vincent Tan produces a dark Welsh farce at Cardiff

Malaysian does not understand football culture as he is treating Cardiff like a franchise not a club

The gag among Vincent Tan’s associates is that the Malaysian billionaire knows nothing about football. To Cardiff City’s manager, players and supporters that joke is wearing thin.

“It really has been a normal week for us,” insisted David Kerslake, Cardiff’s assistant manager as he tried to stand in for Malky Mackay at yesterday’s chaotic press conference. It was an attempt to duck the issue but instead it sums up the farce into which a club enjoying their best times on the pitch for more than half a century has descended. This has become the norm.

One of Tan’s true loves is theatre – he funds an acting group in Malaysia to travel round schools performing Chinese musical theatre – and it appears he is intent on staging his own Christmas pantomime in Cardiff, casting himself as the villain. Tan was scheduled to arrive in this country last night and head to Liverpool for today’s match. Few will welcome his arrival.

There is talk among supporters’ groups of staging a protest at the next home game, against Southampton on Boxing Day. One supporter suggested the atmosphere could be “poisonous”. Previously the support has been pro-Mackay rather than anti-Tan – in other words there has been positivity within the ground. Now that changes.

Cardiff are ensnared in football’s Catch 22. Without Tan it is unlikely they would be preparing for a first top-flight match at Anfield since 1954; with him Cardiff are no longer what they were: different-coloured shirts, different badge, and a club whose future is still uncertain.

It was in 2010 that Tan, listed by Forbes as the 10th richest man in Malaysia and worth $1.3bn (£800m), was persuaded to buy into Cardiff. The potential was obvious. For all their financial troubles over the previous decade, here was a club one leap from the promised land of the Premier League. Tan spent £6m on a 35 per cent share.

Initially he showed no great interest. His focus was on his franchises – he made his first fortune bringing McDonald’s to Malaysia – and myriad other business interests. He is a character of contrasts, to some interested solely in money, to others one of the most generous philanthropists in Asia, the man who cannot stand golf but bought golf courses. “I like to put my eggs in multiple baskets, so that if the egg in one basket is rotten, I have other baskets to rely on,” Tan told Forbes.

His stake in Cardiff grew – it now stands at 51 per cent – and so did his interest. He was at Wembley to watch the League Cup final against Liverpool last year and saw a thriller settled on penalties. It was enough to make the businessman pay attention to his distant outpost – perhaps there was cash in those Valleys. He began to make changes; the following season Cardiff were kitted out in red. “The colour red is recognised as being synonymous with Welsh culture and heritage,” explained a club statement.

The colour of the shirt may seem trivial among talk of debts, dollars and deals, but it is symptomatic of an increasing remove between supporters and those who run their clubs.

Tan made millions through McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme and other franchise operations. He lists and delists his companies on the Malaysian stock exchange – Cardiff are set to be listed next year – with bewildering regularity. Last month it knocked back his latest attempt, to raise $250m (£153m) via a share sale, suggesting it was overpriced.

Sometimes the obvious needs stating: football clubs are not franchises. The example of Swansea must catch in the throats of Cardiff fans, and that is what Tan does not get. Cardiff is not Wales. Cardiff is Cardiff, the Bluebirds, blue-shirted for over a century.

He has moved to take Cardiff out of the red, although there is a way to go and promises remain vague. Tan paid off some debt, knocking £24m off the £83m listed in the last accounts by paying off the Langston Corporation. Of the remainder, £37m is owed to him at interest of seven per cent. He has promised to convert it into equity. It is estimated he has pumped £70m into the club – Mackay broke Cardiff’s transfer record three times in the summer.

But Tan wanted a say for his money. The 61-year-old took to texting Mackay on footballing matters, reportedly once instructing him to score more long-range goals as they went down well with the crowd. In October Tan suspended Iain Moody, Mackay’s head of recruitment, and installed Alisher Apsalyamov, a 23-year-old Kazakh with no footballing experience.

Now we are into the slapstick finale of this farce. Mackay’s suggestion that he wanted to sign three players in January was shot down this week by Tan, who dispatched an angry email to his manager; Tan didn’t like the way the team played, the players Mackay had signed, the results, his spending. Jump or be pushed, he ordered.

Cardiff sit four points clear of the bottom three ahead of the vital Christmas fixtures. After a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion last Saturday, Mackay’s side are in a position to put some distance between themselves and the strugglers. What a time for Tan to choose to bring the house down.

“You wait 50 years for this and now…” said one Cardiff season-ticket holder. “Why did it have to be us?”

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit