Mehmet Dalman, an investment banker and the newly appointed chairman of Cardiff City, said the soccer team’s ambition stretches beyond merely surviving its first season in the Premier League.
The Bluebirds are rated third favorites by bookmakers Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power to return to the second-tier Championship division at the end of the season.
“We’re not just interested in getting promoted and staying there,” Dalman, a former board member of Commerzbank AG who was named Cardiff chairman yesterday, said in a telephone interview from London. “But we know we’re not going to achieve anything instantly. It’s a lot of hard work and we need to be focused.”
Cardiff, owned by Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan, won the Championship to seal a place in England’s top flight for the first time since 1962. Cardiff’s arrival coincides with the start of the Premier League’s new television contract, the richest in soccer, which guarantees the lowest-ranked of the division’s 20 clubs about 60 million pounds ($92 million).
“I have no idea how much work is going to be involved,” said Dalman, who succeeds Dato Tan Tien Ghee, who quit a chairman on March 1. “I’m hoping that I will be more involved in the macro picture rather than day-to-day issues.”
Dalman in April stepped down as chairman of Eurasian Natural Resources Corp., about 14 months after being appointed to improve the metals producer’s corporate governance, after the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office began investigating it for alleged fraud, bribery and corruption.
Dalman said his involvement with the company today is “zilch.”
“I’m out and moved on,” he said. “I wish them all the best.”
Cardiff isn’t his first foray into U.K. soccer. Dalman helped the Glazer family buy into record 19-time English champion Manchester United before its 2005 takeover.
“I kicked it off,” he said of that deal.
The relationship with Cardiff City’s owners dates back more than a decade, when Dalman was based in Asia.
“I was quite well known in Asia,” he said. “My path with Malaysia crossed quite a lot. Vincent Tan said ‘we could do with someone like you on the board. Would you consider doing that?’ And I said sure.”
Since Cardiff’s Malaysian takeover in May 2010, the club has changed the color of its home jersey from blue to red, which stoked fan criticism.
Under 41-year-old manager Malkay Mackay, who was hired in June 2011, the team finished eight points ahead of second-placed Hull City in the Championship last season.
“The whole philosophy was to have a young manager who’s proved to be innovative and driven,” said Dalman. “He hasn’t gone out and bought a lot of players who are over the hill. We’ve invested in youth.”
While spending a lot of money doesn’t guarantee Premier League survival, Cardiff will back Mackay in the transfer market, Dalman said.
Danish striker Andreas Cornelius joined for about 8 million pounds and Cardiff was ready to spend a similar amount on Tom Ince before the England under-21 winger rejected the move.
“The club is fully behind the manager if he wants to make any more signings, I’m sure he will have the support,” said Dalman. “One of my key tasks is to support him as much as possible in bringing in new talent.”