Alex Miller: Arsenal bombshell highlights area Sheffield Wednesday chief Dejphon Chansiri deserves huge credit

It’s a fickle world, football finance.
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On an afternoon that saw The Star deliver the news that Sheffield Wednesday had been unable to filed their accounts for the 2018/19 season on time, it emerged that Arsenal – Arsenal of European football and a 60,000-seater stadium and Premier League megabucks – were to make 55 redundancies in the face of the ongoing and world-changing coronavirus crisis.

The Wednesday news, we understand, is nothing to worry about. It’s merely a circumstantial matter as the club wait on the fallout of the EFL wrangle before they find out which set of accounts the £60m sale of Hillsborough is to be wedged into.

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But it does go to highlight just how far into the future it is that football fans get any real glimpse into the financial fumblings that keep their club ticking over.

Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri.Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri.
Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri.

With no indication of when supporters may or may not be welcomed back into stadiums, with projections of second spikes afoot and with the scaling back of all revenue streams a stomach-turning reality, just how fragile should supporters of Football League clubs feel when considering their club’s future?

If Arsenal are feeling sick, then what of the likes of Wednesday? What of the reception staff, the ground staff, the kitchen team, whose jobs are first to be dispatched when the bottom line becomes king?

Wednesday are fortunate in that they have a wealthy backer who has already proved himself prepared to support the club – and its employees – in times of hardship.

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In making-up the remaining 20 per cent of salaries of non-footballing employees furloughed at the start of April, Owls owner Dejphon Chansiri – a man not shy of his rightful share of criticism – did something other club owners were either unwilling or unable to do.

Conversations with club staff furloughed during that time show that it is a gesture that has not been taken for granted. Reports suggest the Thai businessman has funnelled somewhere close to £100,000 per day – every single day of his ownership – into Sheffield Wednesday FC.

Which brings us back to Arsenal. Crowned FA Cup champions on Saturday, in doing so pocketing prize money of over £3.5m and a place in the Europa League worth somewhere close to £40m, the Gunners waited just four days to announce these cuts.

As rumours of a bumper contract for 32-year-old Chelsea forward Willian intensify, an Arsenal statement confirming the 55 redundancies said that restructuring of the debt accrued in the building of their Emirates stadium have “helped us continue to maintain investment in the team.”

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“This,” the statement adds, “will continue to be a key priority.”

Football League clubs including Sheffield Wednesday are right to be cautious and indeed nervous about their financial future. And while Dejphon Chansiri has a lot of questions to answer when it comes to recent events, he should be commended for the loyalty and generosity shown in supporting his staff.

Arsenal have a billionaire backer that could save those 55 jobs without scrimping on lunch. Chansiri deserves huge praise for his handling of staff in this time.


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