It's Derby County this time.. it was Sheffield Wednesday - the EFL need to find a better way to protect football fans

Wandering back to Derby train station from Pride Park a few months back, it was impossible not to wonder what Brian Clough would have thought of it all.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 4:54 pm

Sheffield Wednesday’s relegation to the third tier of English football confirmed courtesy of a draw with their hosts and there was a saltiness on the tongue on the trudge through the car park.

Watching Derby’s players celebrate their ‘great escape’ with thousands of supporters as if it were a trophy – a survival effort that was only achieved because of the points deduction handed out to a very poor Wednesday side that didn’t deserve to stay up either – even the statue of Clough and his legendary right-hand man Peter Taylor looked a little disappointed.

Because Derby County is a proud and historic club with a fanbase that deserves better than that afternoon and certainly the events of the past few years, lurching from loophole to loophole with behaviour that prompted one EFL executive to admit: “I’ve never seen a club behave so poorly for so long.”

Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sheffield Wednesday supporters watch on ahead of their do-or-die cash with Derby County back in May.

And now they’ve plummeted into administration and all that comes with it; redundancies, asset losses, a 12-point deduction and likely relegation. Derby County supporters deserve better.

Written by a Sheffield Wednesday correspondent, the irony of this message is strong. If Derby are the club most rooted to the EFL naughty step, you can’t think he’d rank Wednesday too far behind.

The fact is that The Star has long held its hands up to Wednesday’s wrongdoings and Owls fans, like Derby’s, deserved better than the sale of their greatest asset to cover an arrogant disregard for spending rules. They deserved better than a botched job of managing that sale that saw them plunged into relegation. Much better.

These are famous clubs that should be run properly. And it’s time for proactive governance from those above.

Where next for Derby? The anxiety felt by their fans is one Wednesday supporters will be familiar with in years gone by.

Their latest scrape with financial problems never saw the ‘A-word’ used seriously. These were, we were reassured, cashflow problems rather than anything more serious. Owner Dejphon Chansiri, who took responsibility for the stadium sale omnishambles, has bankrolled what looks to be from the outside a reset in operations at the club.

How prudent have Wednesday been in assembling the ‘Championship-quality squad’ assembled for their assault at League One promotion this season?

The fact is that we won’t truly know for a couple of years, when the relevant accounts are due to be published, how far the club has been pushed towards to the ‘self-sustainable’ model the owner has said on record he is keen to work towards.

But with the notion of transfer fees off the table and fingers burnt, there appears to be no immediate klaxon for alarm and it’s never really been in doubt that Chansiri is in it for the long haul.

Whether it be ceding power to an independent regulator, pushing home a salary cap all parties can get behind or something else, the EFL need to do their job and protect clubs from themselves.

These institutions and those who spend their lives obsessing over them deserve the very best governance. It’s high time authorities found a better way of making sure they get it.