Completing a deal that’s been discussed since summer, Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan has taken control of FK Sarajevo, with the Malaysian businessman’s near-$2 million investment set to partner Tan’s new Bosnian club with his Premier League outfit in Wales. The arrangement will see the clubs arrange friendlies, exchange players, create a joint academy, and share marketing campaigns.
“I am very optimistic and hope that this co-operation will be very useful for both clubs and for Bosnian football generally,” Tan told a Sarajevo daily back in September, the eventual deal between already known at the beginning of the season.
FK Sarajevo was founded in 1946 and has won four domestic league championships, most recently claiming the Bosnia and Herzegovina Premier League title in 2006-07. The club has finished in the top league’s top four in each of the last three seasons, earning a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds each time.
Though they sit second through 19 rounds of this season’s competition, Sarajevo had also flirted with bankruptcy, with average attendance at club matches dipping below 3,000 people last season. Tan’s investment should stabilize the club’s finances, with player resources from Cardiff potentially helping head coach Robert Jarni’s team overcome two-time defending champions Željezničar, who sit two points clear at the top of the league.
“We plan to play friendly games, exchange players, organize joint training camps and marketing campaigns,” Tan said, outlining a partnership that could pave a route to the Premier League for FK Sarajevo’s best players.
According to outlets in Bosnia, Tan will not change the club colors, something he controversially did with his investment in Wales. While Cardiff City has historically worn blue, Tan changed the team’s main color to red, though the team continues to be colloquially referred to as the Bluebirds.
“We have signed an agreement which defines the investment and management rights in accordance to the club’s statute and legislation that is in force in Bosnia,” FK Sarajevo’s general director Dino Selimovic told Reuters, as reported by The Guardian.
Though the Malky Mackay saga has left Tan portrayed as a type of Bond villain, this looks like another arrangement that works for both club and investor. Just as Tan helped stabilize a Cardiff City team that was perpetually on the edge of administration, his money will alleviate worries in Sarajevo.
Fans of the club will naturally wonder if this makes the team into a feeder club, but given the divide between the Premier League and the Bosnian first division, the benefits could also go the other way, particularly if FK Sarajevo can take advantage of more lenient E.U. work permit requirements to house players who may not gain U.K. sanction. Between those rare instances and potential loans to Sarajevo, Tan’s new club could see significant on-field benefits from this new arrangement.
Plus, the club gets to stay afloat.