Sheffield Wednesday: Hillsborough sale has appeased EFL - but Land Registry update raises more questions

The make-up of Sheffield Wednesday’s 2017/18 accounts threw up more questions than answers when they were made public last month – the biggest being who owned Hillsborough stadium after a £60m sale was reported.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 15:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 18:22 pm
Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri.

Documents made public by the Land Registry today have made the picture a little clearer – but what do we now know about the sale? And what new questions do we have? Let’s comb through some of the details. Feel free to take a look at what we already knew.

Who is Hillsborough now owned by?

Whilst we knew the ground had been sold – for £60m – what we didn’t know was to whom.

The Land Registry update today confirmed the ground is now under the ownership of ‘Sheffield 3 Ltd’, one of four new companies registered by Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri. Indeed, it seems ‘Sheffield 3 Ltd’ is in itself owned by ‘Sheffield 5 Ltd’, a firm controlled by Mr Chansiri himself.

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That seems simple enough. Is it?

Not really. Football finance is a seriously complicated business, and only so much of its inner workings is ever made public for a variety of reasons.

The sale, according to documents released by the Land Registry, confirm the sale went through on June 28 2019 for £60m exactly, exclusive of VAT. This took place one week after the official incorporation of ‘Sheffield 3 Ltd’.

However, Wednesday’s 2017/18 accounts show the sale of the ground took place on July 31 2018 – nearly 11 months before Sheffield 3 Ltd was incorporated.

How is this possible?

That’s a good question. Football finance expert Dr Dan Plumley, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, suggests the company is likely to have existed in principle when the sale took place, saying it can take time for the incorporation of a company to become public-facing.

“There are reasons this takes time,” he said, “and because of the three-year cycle of the profitability and sustainability regulations football clubs have to adhere to, timing is everything on this sort of thing.

“With finance, because everything works around annual accounts, we’re constantly working backwards a year. We’re always 12 months behind the curve.

“It is also possible that the company was formed as was registered with HMRC as non-trading, meaning it would have laid dormant for some time.

“We only see so much as a public. This is very vague, but it’s not unusual.”

Does this explain the delay of the release of Wednesday’s accounts then?

Possibly. The accounts were released on June 21 2019, the same day as Sheffield 3 Ltd was officially incorporated. It seems that had to be done before any accounts could be handed over to the EFL.

So what’s next?

Nothing pressing. The handing over of the accounts saw Sheffield Wednesday’s soft transfer embargo lifted by the EFL and there seems to be no issue on their part with regard to how Wednesday have gone about their business.

As reported at the time, in order to satisfy profit and sustainability regulations that require clubs to make no more than a £39 million loss every three years, the club will have to make a loss of less than £20 million in the current year.

The sale of the stadium is described as “a short term fix” by Dr Plumley – they cannot sell the stadium to make up for any losses again.