Sheffield Wednesday allegedly told prospective Ukrainian buyers they could relocate the club away from Hillsborough to Don Valley because the legacy of the 1989 stadium disaster had 'limited the appeal' to supporters of staying there.
Details of the supposed £30m deal for Wednesday that the Ukrainians were offered are revealed in a book by British football agent Jon Smith, entitled ‘The Deal, Inside the World of a Super-Agent', which also goes onto say how Lord Sebastian Coe, who grew up in Sheffield and has an affinity with the club, was behind the idea.
Smith said Wednesday’s former owner Milan Mandaric, was interested in speaking to the Ukrainians, who made their approach in 2014 through Italian agent Roberto de Fanti. A meeting was then brokered through the agent, who led a delegation to the Ukrainian city of Odessa, where it was suggested that a move from Hillsborough to Sheffield’s unused Don Valley Stadium may make a purchase more attractive.
“Given the tragedy that occurred there in 1989, a prospective owner would instigate a move without many of the tribal problems that exist whenever a club leaves its spiritual home,” Smith writes.
“There is usually a powerful and positive emotional legacy left behind, but I didn’t think that that would be the case with Hillsborough because so many people had died there in such awful circumstance.”
“A potential new owner, then, could take this wonderful brand and move it to a new state-of-the-art venue, while simultaneously turning Hillsborough into a property development to help the overall project,” adds Smith.
Lord Coe, a friend of agent, had apparently joked that if he managed to get a wealthy buyer for the club that he may be willing to bring his experience of sports governance to bear by becoming chairman.
“Seb had even offered to speak to Jose Mourinho to see if he might be interested,” Smith writes. “At the time, that was not as fanciful as it may sound because Jose was without a club and open to suggestion.”
But the talks and deal didn't materialise with the unknown Ukrainian consortium and Wednesday was later purchased by distinguished Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri.
Sheffield City Council closed the Don Valley Stadium in 2013 and was later flattened.