Sheffield Wednesday: Finance expert issues Owls warning

Sheffield Wednesday football club's ground.
Sheffield Wednesday football club's ground.
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A football finance expert has warned new Sheffield Wednesday owner Hafiz Mammadov it may cost him up to £25m to get the club back into the Premier League.

Rob Wilson, from Sheffield Hallam University, believes Mammadov, within the parameters of Financial Fair Play (FFP), must invest heavily in increasing the Owls’ player and wage budget.

And Wednesday legend Carlton Palmer has also suggested they build progressively for the future, claiming it could take Wednesday “two to three” years to end their top flight exile.

Mammadov completed his takeover, subject to Football League ratification, last week. It is understood the Azerbaijani businessman finalised the deal - worth approximately 50million euros (around £40m) - with Owls chairman Milan Mandaric earlier this month.

Mammadov took over RC Lens in 2013 and helped the French club gain promotion to Ligue 1. His clear objective now is to see Wednesday dine at the top table again.

Wilson told The Star: “The intention for the new owner is that he will come in and be able to inject some finance into the football club to take them on to the next level.

“If he [Mammadov] can invest, particularly under FFP regulations, eight to 10 million a year over the next couple of years, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be challenging for the top six in the Championship and possibly looking beyond that.

“For a club who have consolidated at that level, you are looking at around £25m to get them up. You’ve got the clubs coming down from the Premier League with ridiculous parachute payments which unbalance the league so you need to be able to compete with them. You need a bit of luck too.”

Cardiff City, Fulham and Norwich City, relegated from the top flight last term, will receive £59m in payments over four years, a figure increased from £48m in 2013.

Ex-England international Palmer said: “It’s an exciting time for Wednesday but the fans have to be patient. They finished 19 points off a play-off spot last year so they’ve got to make that up and Cardiff, Norwich and Fulham are coming down with the parachute money. Then you’ve got Wigan and Blackburn who just missed out and Derby will comeback strongly as well.

“He [Mammadov] is worth a few pounds but he knows the game and he knows what he needs to do. He knows it’s going to be a gradual process.

“I don’t think for any moment he is going to come in and spend 20 million in the transfer market. He’s not going to do that. He’s going to look at the areas where he can improve the football club from the ground upwards. That is the way to do it and then start bringing in good youngsters coupled with experienced players. It’s got to be a two to three year plan. There is a lot of work to be done before Wednesday become a Premier League team again.”

Under the current FFP system, which is designed to curb over-spending, clubs will be permitted to lose £6m in the 2014/15 campaign, although £3m of that must be covered by owner investment. Teams’ accounts will be assessed on December 1 and side’s failing to comply with the rules will be subject to a fine or transfer embargo.

Wilson said: “FFP is a good idea and should, in practice, limit what losses clubs make. We should see many more clubs be able to wash their faces financially.

“For clubs such as Wednesday, that means the owner can inject about eight million without having to worry about breaching those regulations. That’s good news for Wednesday because not every club in the league has an owner who has that sort of capital available to them.”

Wilson has praised the job Milan Mandaric has done in stabalising the club’s financial position. Mandaric is expected to stay on as Wednesday chairman.

“I’ve been pretty impressed, from an academic point of view, with the way Milan has gone about stripping out costs which have not been required,” he said.

“He has not let his heart rule his head which is why you haven’t perhaps seen the level of investment the fans would have wanted. They want to see their team do well, play good football and get promoted.”