Feature: The financial challenges facing Sheffield Wednesday

No owner in Sheffield Wednesday's colourful 151-year history has invested more than Dejphon Chansiri.

Friday, 11th January 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 11th January 2019, 4:54 pm
Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri

That's not a sweeping statement. It's a fact.

Chansiri has pumped millions of his personal fortune into the club since succeeding Milan Mandaric almost four years ago. He has made a substantial financial commitment to Wednesday, spending lavish amounts of money on improving the first-team squad, the training ground and infrastructure at Hillsborough.

Chansiri bought the Owls in 2015

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Chansiri's wealth turned the Owls from pretenders into contenders, giving them a shot at competing with a host of teams armed with parachute payments. If anything has skewed the transfer market, it is parachute payments.

Despite the unlevel playing field, Wednesday exceeded all expectations by finishing sixth and reaching the 2016 Championship Play-Off Final in Chansiri's first full year at the helm. Steve Bruce's Hull City edged them out at Wembley, claiming a 1-0 victory in the showpiece fixture.

Another play-off disappointment soon followed 12 months later before a disappointing mid-table finish last term.

Say what you like about Chansiri but his passion and love for the club is undeniable. He is desperate to bring success to the Owls. Nothing would give Chansiri greater pleasure than to help the club realise its Premier League dream.

Chansiri succeeded Milan Mandaric at Hillsborough

Chansiri is not short on money and it is understood there are funds available for new manager Steve Bruce to spend in the transfer market this month.

But English Football League rules prohibit Chansiri from splashing as much cash as he would like (and every other owner in the league as well).

Testing times lie ahead for a number of Championship clubs as they bid to stay within Profitability and Sustainability (P&S) rules, which were enforced at the start of the 2016/17 season.

Several second-tier teams have been forced to tighten their belts on expenditure and balance the books in order to comply with the regulations.

Chansiri has pumped millions of pounds into Sheffield Wednesday

P&S, formerly Financial Fair Play regulations, prohibits clubs from posting losses in excess of £39m over three years without punishment, although this includes a financial projection for the current financial year if the owner injects equity.

There are potentially big consequences if clubs bust their ceiling for losses. Teams can spend if they are not under a transfer embargo but may face penalties later such as a points deduction or an inability to sign more players should they fail to remain within P&S restrictions.

Queens Park Rangers, following a long-running legal dispute, receive

Steve Bruce was named Sheffield Wednesday's new manager on January 2

d a hefty fine - the club were ordered to pay a fine of £17m over a term of 10 years, £3m to cover the legal fees of the EFL as well as be made to capitalise £22million of directors' loans - after breaching the old FFP rules.

The Rs are ostensibly prohibited from strengthening their squad during this month's window.

But under the terms of their embargo, which lasts until February 1, the Rs can still sign players as long as they comply with certain criteria.

It would need to be a free transfer and in a one-in one-out basis. Any incoming player would not be paid more than £600,000 per year (£11,500 per week), or be paid a salary of more than 75 per cent of the person they are replacing.

Professionals aged 23 or under remain free to join the club but are not allowed to feature at senior level until the start of next season.

Birmingham City are another Championship club in a precarious predicament. The Blues face the prospect of being docked between three and 12 points for breaking rules on spending.

Bruce will officially take charge of Sheffield Wednesday on February 1

Birmingham confirmed, prior to the start of this season, that they were under a transfer embargo after recording losses above the £39m limit.

They then angered rival clubs by signing defender Kristian Pedersen from Union Berlin for £2m last June while under the embargo, with the EFL admitting they were "exceptionally disappointed".

But after working closely with the EFL, Birmingham eventually agreed a business plan with the governing body and had their embargo lifted last August. They were given permission to sign five players before the end of the summer transfer window, subject to a number of conditions, including a wage cap.

However, Birmingham still face the possibility of a points deduction, having recorded losses above the £39m limit, and are set to discover their punishment at a disciplinary hearing in February.

Club accounts, which were published last week, revealed the full extent of their financial plight. Chinese-owned Birmingham lost a whopping £37.5 million in the 2017/18 season.

As for Wednesday, the South Yorkshire outfit had their 'soft' embargo lifted in August.

Chansiri has made no secret of the fact the Owls will have "big, big problems" with P&S in the 2019-20 campaign if they do not secure promotion to the top-flight this term. Wednesday are currently in 16th position, 11 points adrift of sixth-placed Derby County.

A club source has said: "The club is extremely grateful for support through season tickets, shirt sales etc but it is not enough to prevent P&S problems."

The last available financial figures show the Owls lost more than £20m in the 2016-17 season, an increase of £15m on the previous year.

However, the P&S loss is not the same as the accounting losses published by clubs, as some costs - such as infrastructure, youth development, community and women's football - are excluded.

It is fair to say Wednesday have work to do in their fight against P&S. It is direct revenue, not cash, the club needs to ease their financial concerns.

Remember the Club 1867 initiative that was unveiled in August 2017? The scheme was launched to give supporters the chance to buy a three-year season ticket, which will kick into effect as soon as the Owls gain promotion to the top flight.

As part of his '˜Ask the Chairman' series, Chansiri said the inception of Club 1867 was "based wholly on staying within the boundaries of P&S".

Many clubs in the league will no doubt be looking at different strategies to combat P&S.

Chansiri is acutely aware of breaking the rules and the huge impact it could have on the club in both the short and long-term. The Thai businessman has vowed to do everything in his power to solve the P&S puzzle.

But Chansiri has made it clear he cannot fix it on his own in the most recent fans' forum. He threatened to walk away unless the fans financially give him even greater financial support.

"If fans don't want the chairman to leave, support him," added the club source.

Chansiri says he does not view the Owls as a "normal business". Whereas his first thought with other companies he owns is about turning over a profit, Chansiri claims he is not driven by financial gain with Wednesday.

Chansiri says he has tried his best to make the fans happy and take the club to the next level.

But if the club do not get additional external revenue over the coming weeks and months, Chansiri may be left with little alternative but to change his approach.

Chansiri has warned the Owls will face "big, big problems" with profitability and sustainability if they fail to get promoted this season
Chansiri has vowed to do everything he can to fix ease their financial problems