Sheffield Wednesday EFL hearing to start TODAY: Everything you need to know explained
News broke last night that Sheffield Wednesday’s year-long saga with the EFL is to come to a head in a trial heard by an independent commission later today.
The intense legal battle, which relates to the circumstances around the club’s sale of Hillsborough stadium, has had a number of twists and turns and could see the club sucked into a relegation dogfight should a guilty finding result in a point deduction.
The Star have provided updates on the case every step of the way and will continue to do so. In plain English, here are all your vital questions answered.
I’ve lost track. Give us a quick recap.
Late last year Wednesday were charged with misconduct by the EFL for the circumstances around the sale of Hillsborough for £60m to a separate company set up by chairman Dejphon Chansiri.
This sale allowed the club to stay within the parameters of the league’s Profitability and Sustainability rules, a derivation of FFP which allows a Championship club to make losses of no more than £36m in a three-year period.
Without the sale of Hillsborough, Wednesday would have been well short of those rules and would have faced punishment. The sale instead allowed them to post a pre-tax profit of £2.5m.
The sale was included in the accounts for the 2017/18 season and the charges relate to ‘how and when’ the stadium was sold.
Wednesday have argued throughout the battle that they have proof that the EFL were kept abreast of the whole thing and deny all charges.
But wasn’t Chansiri cleared?
Not quite, but he did have charges against him dropped. It emerged that three individuals had also been charged for misconduct alongside the club itself; Chansiri, the club’s former finance director John Redgate and former CEO Katrien Meire. A guilty finding could have seen them banned from all football activity.
Wednesday took all four cases to an arbitration hearing and the three individual cases were dropped by the EFL back in March. The case against the club stands.
Thanks for the recap.. So what’s the news?
It appears the time has come. After reports in the national media had previously claimed the hearing was set to take place in July, The Telegraph has revealed that the hearing has been moved forward and will start today. The hearing will be heard by a three-person commission completely separate to the EFL.
Why has it been brought forward?
The report claims that the case has been moved forward after complaints to the EFL from ‘a number of clubs’.
Barnsley – second bottom of the division – went public with a letter to the EFL last month making clear their position that they would take legal action against the body should the any punishment against the three Championship clubs to have been charged this season; Wednesday, Derby and Birmingham, were to be enacted next season.
It’s not just Barnsley, though. Other Championship clubs are also understood to have registered a similar position with the EFL.
What could the implications be and who decides them?
If found guilty, and that is as it stands still a big ‘if’, the punishments could range from anything from a slap on the wrist to a fine to expulsion from the league altogether.
It is understood that the most likely sanction would be a points deduction ranging from anything from eight points to 21 points. A deduction of 12 points has been widely mooted, but is far from confirmed.
A maximum deduction of 21 points can only be enforced if Wednesday are to be found of ‘aggravating factors’, in other words having been found to have been deliberately obstructive or to have hidden the truth from the EFL. The club maintain they have been upfront throughout the case.
The punishment will be decided by the independent commission, not the EFL.
How long will the case take?
Cases brought to an independent commission by the EFL can take minutes weeks or ultimately months - Stevenage had a case against them earlier this season ruled in their favour within 15 minutes - but the Telegraph report states the case is expected to take all week due to the complexity of the issues at hand.
What about Derby and Birmingham then?
Birmingham’s case was originally thrown out by an independent commission but the club were ruled guilty on appeal by the EFL earlier this month. They were found guilty of misconduct - the same charge as Wednesday - though the circumstances differ. Despite the guilty ruling, Birmingham got away with a reprimand - legal talk for a slap on the wrist.
Derby’s charge also relates to the sale of their stadium to a separate company presided over by their owner, but their charge, brought in January, is of ‘excess spending’. They too deny the charges. No date has been set for their hearing.
Let’s cut to the chase, if found guilty, will it effectively relegate Wednesday?
That depends very much on the scale of any points deduction. As it stands, the Owls sit eight points clear of the drop zone with eight matches left to play after the point earned in their encouraging draw with promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
They currently sit on 49 points and have 24 points to play for. A total of 42 points would have seen them stay up in four of the last five seasons. The Star will crunch the numbers and have more on this later.