Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri on the early bird season ticket furore and cash flow fears
The Star’s Sports Editor Chris Holt spoke with Dejphon Chansiri this weekend in an effort to find out the reasons behind the decision to launch the ‘early bird’ season ticket prices in December.
Thursday’s announcement was met with the kind of reaction that was expected by the decision-makers at Sheffield Wednesday. Chairman Dejphon Chansiri was told it would not be well received and on the face of it, the furore is justifiable.
Telling fans that their season ticket prices would be frozen, but if you want to avail of that offer you have about three weeks to get the money together in, for most, the costliest month of the year is a tricky sell, to say the least. The ‘early bird’ prices normally come out in around January/February so many supporters will have budgeted accordingly.
Doing it with no mention of being able to spread the payments, normally a God-send for those who simply don’t have hundreds of pounds readily available, just added to the fans’ frustration.
Since then, the club have announced that finance is now available, and more on that later.
All in all, it’s been a PR disaster for the club when it really didn’t need to be.
Chansiri, as he always has done, stands by the decision.
As a footnote, the fact that he is now in the country has nothing to do with the call being made now, it has been made clear. He’s sacked managers while in Thailand without having met them in person, so this decision was never going to need him to be in Sheffield to go through.
The claims that he has ‘taken a step back’ in terms of the general day-to-day running of the club were also refuted: “I work harder now in Thailand than I ever have done before,” he said. Chansiri would later add, “When something good happens it’s because I have supposedly taken a step back. When it’s not good, then it’s my fault.”
What Chansiri said about the early-bird season ticket decision
The chairman states on this occasion that it was the fans he had in his thoughts when deciding to run sliding scale pricing through an already difficult month. Chansiri told us that he was trying to reward loyalty, by giving supporters the opportunity to pay League One prices – by Sheffield Wednesday standards – potentially for Championship football.
It is his belief that to offer a price freeze at this time would be better than simply pricing the tickets higher a month or two down the line.
"Our intention initially was to launch in January or February. That is normal,” he explained.
"At that time, the pricing would depend on the position of the team. If we have the potential to go up, then the prices would be higher. Of course, we wouldn't go with Championship prices.
"At the beginning, we thought we would wait until January or February and see what position we are in.
"But I didn't think that was fair to the loyal fans. I felt we should do something for them.
"We have tried to think about the fans, not just ourselves. We wanted to do something for the loyal fans and that's why we decided to move to December to give the loyal fans the chance to make the most of the price freeze.
"It is better than us launching it in January or February and charging £50 or above (for tickets).
"We understand December is not a good month but I wanted to cut the prices for the loyal fans. We wanted to do it for the loyal fans.”
Chansiri’s justification for higher prices
"I understand that (the early bird offer) cannot fulfil everyone. I know that I cannot make everyone happy but I believe the majority can get that benefit from our records. This is a good opportunity to get cheaper prices.
"If the fans choose not to buy the (early bird season) tickets, there is nothing wrong with that. They can wait for January or February when we launch the second phase.
"If we are not in a good position, maybe fans will get the same prices. If we do better, then prices will increase.
"You need to understand that in League One our operation costs are still the same as in the Championship. They are not lower. When we go back to the Championship, there will be more and more costs.
"I need to balance everything. We have not been a sustainable club in over 150 years. The regulations have not helped but it is not just us. Every club is in the same position.
"You can see it in the Premier League. Only the top teams make a little bit of a profit. Other clubs still lose money.
"Even when Milan [Mandaric, former Sheffield Wednesday owner] was in charge, he still lost £6m to £7m a season. We have tried to push (for promotion) but there are no guarantees in sport.
"If you don't put money in, then you have no chance. You can't dream like some clubs do where they don't spend and have luck. We don't want to rely on luck. We don't just want to survive. We want to go up."
Is there a cash-flow problem at Sheffield Wednesday?
Another of the major concerns held by supporters in the wake of this decision, coming as it did completely out of the blue, was that there were further cash-flow problems at the club. Wednesday were given an additional suspended points deduction to that laid down last season, which would be triggered if there was a failure to pay players again.
Should that come to pass by January then a six-point deduction would be in place. If it happens after that, then three points would be the penalty.
From the outside, the bringing forward of the early bird offer looks like a quick cash grab.
That is something Chansiri flat-out denies, stating as he has done in the past, that money from season tickets is a small part of their income stream when compared to the costs of running the club.
"I believe all clubs have cash flow problems,” he said. “I do my best for this club.
"We don't know what's going to happen in the future.
"Some experts thought the pandemic was going to last a few months and we are now over 18 months on and it has still not finished. Businesses have collapsed all over the world.
"I do everything I can to help this club survive. We are trying to build foundations to make this club more sustainable."
A wholely avoidable few days of criticism
Ultimately the breaking of the goodwill that had been built up in recent months at the club by Thursday’s announcement could have been avoided and placed unnecessary pressure on the decision-makers.
We put it to Chansiri that, if it was his intention to reward loyalty – and I don’t doubt that there are good intentions within this, even if I feel they are misguided – then perhaps a simple change of name, say ‘Extra Early Bird’ for example might have helped differentiate. The chairman offered an answer that suggested he felt he was going to be hit with negativity not matter what he did.
The failure to mention that the option to pay in installments was in the pipeline – and since announced – the delay ‘out of their control’, also brought about needless criticism.
And furthermore, it perhaps would have done no harm to mention the fact that not buying an early bird ticket by the end of this month, doesn’t mean that the seat that you have at Hillsborough and may have done so for quite some time, will not be put straight on general sale.
If there are to be any incomings this January, while Darren Moore could do with a few players, a PR advisor could well be Chansiri’s best signing.