Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri: Fans must ‘save club’ with £2m for HMRC and wages

Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri has asked supporters who ‘call themselves owners’ to come up with £2m within the next few days to save the club from a multi-window transfer embargo - and admitted players and club staff might not be paid this month amid major cash flow issues.

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In an exclusive interview with The Star, the Thai businessman confirmed that an outstanding HMRC debt has not yet been paid as cash flow issues in his personal business life means he has no cash in hand to pay-up immediately. Wednesday were put into a registration embargo by the EFL on Wednesday for late payment of the fee, which he confirmed was due last Monday October 23.

The Owls chairman has sought to tell fans who have described him ‘as a custodian only’ that this is their chance to save their club. He has outlined that the club will pay funds back when cash flow improves - with interest. If those supporters pledge the requisite funds only then, he says, they ‘have the right’ to ask Chansiri to leave the club.

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Players and staff at Wednesday are due to be paid on the last day of the month - today, Tuesday October 31 - and Chansiri said that while part-time and casual staff will be paid in full and assistance will be given to staff ‘who need help’, those on higher salaries both on the playing and non-playing side could go unpaid or paid only in part. If he is ‘lucky’, he said, payment will come soon, with debts owed and wages paid at the first instance.

In his remarkable call for fans ‘who say they are the owner’ to help come to the rescue of their club, Chansiri said that around £2m would be enough to cover the HMRC bill that his cashflow has meant he can’t cover, as well as any issues with regards to the salaries that are due to be paid.

Every day that Wednesday don’t pay, HMRC takes them closer to a lengthy transfer embargo - which would prevent the club from paying transfer fees, loan fees or compensation for new players. As of Monday October 30, the club was eight days into a ‘persistent default’. The Owls owner explained that as per EFL rules if they were to not pay wages alongside the HMRC default, that would go down as two breaches – therefore each day would count as double in terms of nearing that deadline. It is understood that clubs who accrue 30 days of persistent default in any 12-month period from July 1 to June 30 are liable to a three-window embargo, effective from the date of initial breach.

Chansiri explained: “With HMRC, if we don’t pay until, say, the fifth of November, then that means it’s been 14 days, but if we don’t pay wages as well then that’s five days - that means a total of 19 days. Each issue counts separately.

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“If 20,000 people gave £100 then it’s £2m, and it’d be clear - so we can finish it. That would cover everything, HMRC and the wages. That would need to be done before November 10th if they don’t want to pass the 30 days, but that means that there can be no next time. It’d need to be before to make it safe - if it was on the fifth then there would be 10 days left… If we were to hit 30 days then we’ll get a ban for three windows.”

Asked how he intends to collect funds from the club’s fan base to cover the shortfall, Chansiri invited ‘supporters who describe themselves as owners’ to come forward to the club. It is their decision, he said, as to how they would invest - and they would be paid back with interest. Pressed multiple times, he categorically denied he is deliberately withholding funds and in doing so effectively playing a game to stress his power and financial importance to the disenfranchised sections of the club’s fan base.

He said: “Why would I need to play a game? If I don’t pay my staff and they get mad with me then my club is going to be worse. If the staff don’t get money, they don’t do their job and the club is worse off. Why would I take the risk to make problems for my people? That is my last choice to do. I always try to protect my people as much as I can, but if I try my best and cannot do it, then my people must understand. If they don’t understand then I cannot help that. I can create trouble since Covid if I want to, I did not do it. You do not understand how important this club is to me and my family. I have been here nine years and it is a part of my life.”

Seeking to explain the cash flow issues he is facing, Chansiri told The Star that he is awaiting late payments for deals in his business life away from Wednesday. He said: “We have a problem with cash flow. Money has not come in time, you have to understand that businessmen invest and do not keep cash in hand, we never keep money in the bank. We spend and invest. Of course we need to get money back. If the cash flow is bad then we have a problem. I am not broke, the problem is cash flow.

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“If I had money in the bank, why wouldn’t I pay? There is no cash flow, money is not in the bank, how am I going to pay? I need to wait until money comes in. I did it last month, if I did not inject money I would have already done it. There was no need to wait until this month.

“All over the world there is a shortage of cash flow because of the economy, of Covid, of Russia, Israel. This is normal in business now and I need to accept that because the club relies on my money. The people who owe me money in business have not paid on time because they are short of cash flow too. It is a domino, it will affect more people. What can I do? We prepare but the money has not come. If they do not do that, what can I do? This situation is happening all over the world.

“Those who say it is their club, when it was clear we had an issue with HMRC, people came out and said ‘Chairman, you need to take responsibility to pay’, that if we don’t pay we have to sell ‘our club’ - why do they say ‘our club’? I never heard any fan say ‘we need to prepare to save our club’, they just say I have to leave. It’s funny, they say they are owners and I am custodian.

“We try to generate money for the club as best as we can. We need to try to get money but the negative fans don’t help. I am not blaming fans. I am not blaming, I am explaining they don’t help. People (potential sponsors) don’t know us, they just see us on social media, so why are they going to sponsor us when they just see rubbish all the time? We need fans in bad times as well as good.”

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A widely-reported EFL suspended points deduction placed on Wednesday for non-payment of players ended in June 2022, meaning there would be no immediate deduction triggered in the case the players are left unpaid this month.

Chansiri intimated that alongside wages due to part-time, casual and lower-paid staff, any other ‘small payments’ due would be paid on time, including to any local businesses owed money by the club. He said the current cash flow issues would have no bearing on the charge taken out on Hillsborough Stadium, with the payment already having been paid off for this year, and as things stand there is no immediate concern over the club’s short-term Profit & Sustainability commitments.

“We have a problem with cash flow,” he said. “It means I am waiting for funds to come to me so that I can transfer to the club. If I don’t pay players or staff, it doesn’t mean I am playing a game, it means I am waiting for money. I want to know what ‘those fans’ are going to do to protect your club? Negative ones say they are the majority now. If you call yourselves the owner this is your chance to save the club. I am confused - are the negative the majority or is it the positive that are the majority? We try to generate money but negative fans do not help. We don’t want to fight inside and outside, it is tiring. If they do not want to save their club, that’s fine, but do not create trouble.

“We will talk about negative ones first. The 1867 or whoever they are, it’s funny. People just follow them and they don’t know who they are. They want to protest and for me to leave, but nobody comes to save the club. The more positive ones, who backs me up? Then show me, back me up. We don’t have money. The first thing you need to do is save the club. If we don’t pay in 30 days we have a big issue. If you want to save your club, this is your chance. Do not protest, save your club. If not, we will get a transfer ban over three windows, there’s a possibility we will go to League Two or the National League. Maybe the negative fans would be happy, they wouldn’t be able to moan that things are too expensive. So now you have the right. If the positive fans want me to stay, then this is their chance to save their club.”

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Regarding non-playing staff at Hillsborough, Chansiri says that he’s continuing to do his best in order to make sure they’re paid on time, but admits that there’s a chance that some may not get their full salary on time if the cash flow issues aren’t resolved. He was asked what his message would be to those left without full payment and what it meant for those with mortgages or other such outgoings. Chansiri has often taken full, individual responsibility for club matters. Asked about the financial obligations of those impacted by the prospect of non-payment of wages, he reiterated he would seek to provide assistance to those affected.

“I always think about my people, and I’ll do my best, but what I can tell them is that whatever I owe them, even if nobody pays me, I will pay them (eventually),” he said. “I’m not cheating. If there are issues then that is my responsibility and I need to solve it… Whoever really needs something, we will pay them. But maybe not all of it, we’ll try to divide it to help out people. If there are people with problems who cannot wait then we’ll make sure we don’t create problems for them.

"We don’t want to create trouble for them, especially for the ones who are on minimum wage or part-time - for them we’ll try and pay them everything. It’s only the ones who have the higher salaries that may have to wait… But if some people say that they need it all now, even if they don’t need it, then I can’t help - because of the cash flow problem. But this could change very quickly”

Chansiri insists that if he were to receive those funds from outside parties then it would be injected straight into paying HMRC and solving any issues surrounding unpaid wages if they were to arise.

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“I try,” he said. “I try very hard to get money here. It’s difficult, they (those with debts owed to him) promise me but nothing comes. I still love this club. I don’t want anything to happen to this club. I ask the ‘owners’ to save your club because I have done my best. If we’re lucky and money comes tomorrow or another day then no issue. But I am trying many times. I should let the fans know and I ask them to save and love their club. This is your best chance, especially the negative ones.

“If you don’t want to save your club, then don’t call yourselves the owners and me the custodian. If you save your club, then you have the right to ask me to leave. There is no need to make it complicated. I could leave no issue. That is the easy way. I have tried my best for almost nine years, I try everything even in the Covid situation with no revenue. If I wanted to make it bad, I would have already left. I don’t need to be here.”