Sheffield United: The search for investment does not mean a change of owner, supporters are told
Sheffield United have dismissed claims HRH Prince Abullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is looking to sell the club, with two of Bramall Lane’s most senior figures insisting the owner simply wants to attract investment.
Yusuf Giansiracusa, the United chairman, was asked about reports Prince Abdullah would be happy to cede control during a media conference yesterday - where Paul Heckingbottom was unveiled as manager following Slavisa Jokanovic’s sacking.
Peppering his explanation for Jokanovic’s departure after less than five months in post with references to United’s “strategic vision” - a tactic designed to try and counter criticism it has never been articulated - Giansiracusa detailed the corporate structure of United World - Prince Abdullah’s footballing portfolio - to confirm the 56-year-old has no plans to step aside.
“United World, there’s a holding company based in Guernsey,” Giansiracusa said. “Sheffield United is two tiers down, with Blades World. We are always open to investment. We are open to strategic relations. Will there be a change of control? I can virtually assure you there will not be, even if a percentage is sold that will be at holding company level.”
Abdullah Alghamdi, UW’s frontman, was also present at Heckingbottom’s coronation. It was there journalists discovered Jokanovic had been relieved of his duties because he did not fit the criteria United want from their “football manager”. Describing the Serb as a “coach”, Giansiracusa explained those had only been formulated after his appointment in May. Placed in interim charge when two-time promotion winner Chris Wilder left United following the deterioration of his relationship with the board, Heckingbottom was among those the hierarchy considered handing the reins to before tasking Jokanovic with the challenge of leading them back into the Premier League following last season’s relegation.
United have prepared for Sunday’s home game against Bristol City 16th in the Championship.
The delay in deciding what their strategic vision is - although it was conceded United’s hierarchy would not have immediately implemented it had results been different - has come at a price. Dismissing suggestions UW and United require it urgently - “In investment, we are not in a hurry. We do not need it today or tomorrow” - Alghamdi said: “In terms of January, the cost of this change (Jokanovic) is more than the potential cost of the January transfers.”
Steve Bettis, United’s chief executive officer, also addressed the issue of money as he sat alongside Heckingbottom.
With Giansiracusa stressing Bettis, not him or Prince Abdullah, will now be the public face of the board moving forward, the businessman denied the accent on youth cited as a factor behind Heckingbottom’s installation is a sign United can’t flex their muscles in the transfer market.
When Rhian Brewster struggled for form after completing his £23.5m move from Liverpool last year, some influential people at United privately attempted to distance themselves from the deal.
Bettis was not one of them and he used Brewster’s acquisition as a sign United’s leadership is prepared to spend, saying: “Has the money dried up? I think that’s the wrong way of looking at it. We are embracing the youth in the football club. We believe in our academy and youth development. Those days aren’t over. Rhian Brewster was a big money signing but he’s young.”