Dejphon Chansiri is, probably, in the midst of his most challenging period as Owls owner.
Since purchasing the Championship club in March 2015, he has undoubtedly raised standards and Wednesday have come agonisingly close to securing promotion to the Premier League on two occasions.
But the first-team are under-achieving this season and currently lie in 14th position after 15 matches.
There is also growing unrest off the pitch. Some supporters have voiced their displeasure over a number of issues ranging from the club’s recruitment policy to their high ticket prices.
Less than a month ago, Chansiri invited fans to send in questions they wanted answering on any subject concerning the club. Wednesday say they “received many responses, with most centring on similar subjects, which will be answered en bloc” over the next week.
Chansiri has promised to answer the supporters questions openly and in full.
In the first part of the ‘Ask the chairman’ feature, Chansiri has explained why the club hold quarterly Steering Group meetings.
Q: How many concerns raised at steering group meetings have been addressed by the club? What is the purpose of the Steering Group?
Dejphon Chansiri: The primary purpose of the Steering Group is to provide a two-way platform for engagement, debate, feedback and suggestion without conflict. Sheffield Wednesday fans across the board are invited to attend and we deem it extremely important that all supporter groups are represented. The intention is clear – to help make every area of the club better. Many issues across all areas of the club have been discussed at length to date and where possible, resolved.
Using examples where the feeling was strong on a consistent basis but the level of investment varied – the outer fascia of the West Stand and the catering contract at Hillsborough. Following extensive dialogue that included the route of planning permission, a brand new fascia replaced the old corrugated iron exterior of the West Stand following guidance and feeling from the Steering Group.
Then, at the other end of the scale, after similar extensive dialogue and with significant cost to the club, the decision was taken to bring the catering arm of the business in-house.
In addition, supporters also regularly expressed their concerns over the previous kit supplier. The concept of bringing this arm of the club in-house was wholeheartedly supported and whilst we acknowledge fledgling issues on this and the catering front, we were open to the Steering Group regarding our intentions in the first instance, seeking and receiving its support.
Primarily, I am of the belief that all potential revenues should be maximised for the benefit of the club, not any third party, and this view has been endorsed at every Steering Group meeting we have held.
Elsewhere, many issues raised are general queries and these are answered openly and honestly by either myself or a member of my senior staff present. Transparency and open communication where possible is a key element of my ownership and will continue to be so.
Obviously, some issues cannot be resolved in an instant but all supporters are guaranteed that satisfactory answers will be provided to any reasonable query in the fullness of time.
The forums are fundamentally what I believe to be the necessary bridge between supporters and the club. It should be noted that the meetings are not ‘official’ as such and consequently not reported on our website nor minuted. The ethos of the Steering Group is its informal nature, which takes in brainstorming of a fashion and in-depth conversation. Conversely, we have no objection to the attendees reporting after the event but stress that any such reporting should be accurate, fair and balanced.
For example, following the most recent meeting, the reports on one supporter’s coverage receiving criticism from myself were misleading. I did express my surprise over the content of some additional comments, but not the initial reporting, which I believe the supporter in question does very well.
However, on this occasion, we explained at length the situation of the shirt and kit but felt this was negated if such information was to be disregarded. I must stress this is not a criticism but an observation. I do feel that members of the Steering Group have a responsibility to the wider fan base if feeding back content on meetings.
Moving forward, with ongoing engagement and dialogue, the structure and delivery of the Steering Group will continue to evolve with all of the above in mind.
As a footnote, Sheffield Wednesday hosted such meetings long before they became regulated by the EFL following government intervention. The requirement stipulates two meetings per year - we deliver meetings on an average quarterly basis.