Following an application and lobbying by the Sheffield Wednesday Supporters Trust, Sheffield City Council have designated Hillsborough as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), a move designed to protect it against any future change of use or indeed demolition.
The stadium, which has been home to Wednesday since 1899, is now owned by a third party company owned by club chairman Dejphon Chansiri after it was bought from the club as part of an accounting manoeuvre in 2019. A loan was secured against the stadium in 2020.
Chansiri explained the reasons behind the loan in a November 2020 interview and attempted to reassure supporters he would be able to repay the £6.4m debt should it be called in at short notice, saying it was ‘not an issue’.
It is felt the move to bring about ACV status provides the club and supporters legal protection moving forward.
Indeed, the move also means that if there is a plan to sell or change the ownership of the stadium in years to come, supporters can place a moratorium on the sale of the asset for a maximum of six months to enable them to put together a bid to buy it outright. The bid itself would not have to be accepted by the owner.
The move is not highly unusual. A number of other iconic stadia, including Liverpool FC’s Anfield Stadium, are ACV protected.
Steve Walmsley, chairman of the Sheffield Wednesday Supporters Trust said in a statement: “We’re delighted that the application has been successful and would like to thank all the Trust members, partners and members of the community who put in so much hard work to prepare it.
“ACV status brings some welcome protections and potentially some supporter and community influence over what might happen to the stadium in future.
“This is even more important as the stadium is now owned by a company that is legally separate from the club, and it is subject to a loan secured against it.
“As well as protections for the stadium, we want this to be a springboard for the formation of an enhanced partnership between the club, Wednesday fans and the local community that will bring benefits for all parties.”
A joint statement by the three local Hillsborough Ward Councillors Coun Josie Paszek, Coun Christine Gilligan-Kubo and Coun George Lindars-Hammond said:
“We, the Hillsborough Ward Councillors, were happy to support this application throughout the process and would like to congratulate the SWFC Supporters Trust who have, in conjunction with partners and members of the community, put in so much hard work to deliver it.
“The football club and the ground has been at the centre of our community for well over a century and no other asset in private ownership in our area comes close to the levels of sustained usage and benefit to the community and we believe that this is something we must protect going forward.”