South Yorkshire rivals to sue EFL if Sheffield Wednesday FFP case isn't resolved this season
Barnsley are among the clubs that have threatened to sue the EFL if they are relegated and clubs including Sheffield Wednesday are allowed to stay in the Championship next season on minus points due to FFP breaches.
The Owls’ South Yorkshire rivals, who sit bottom of the table seven points from safety, are joined by second-bottom Luton Town in voicing their anger at the potential situation, with the EFL’s charge of Wednesday going back to November.
Reports in The Athletic show Barnsley co-owner Ryan Conway joining the growing number of Championship boardrooms to express their concern at the progress being made in pursuing the cases of Wednesday and Derby County in particular, both clubs who face points deductions in the event of a guilty finding by an independent commission for the circumstances around the sale of their stadium to their owners.
The sale of Hillsborough – for £60m – was listed in their 2017/18 accounts and was sold to ‘Sheffield 3’, a company owned by Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri. The sale allowed the club to stay within the confines of the EFL’s Profit & Sustainability rules – without the controversial sale they would have posted a loss of £57m between 2016 and 2018 – some £18m over the limit of sanctioned losses every three years.
Wednesday have repeatedly outlined their fight against any notion of wrongdoing and Wednesday say the EFL were made aware of their movements throughout the process. In March Chansiri, finance director John Redgate and former club CEO Katrien Meire had individual charges of misconduct dropped by the EFL at an arbitration hearing.
Speaking to the local press on Tuesday, Owls boss Garry Monk said that while he has been in close contact with the club over the progress of the case it has not been his focus, which he insists is on ensuring the Owls are ready for the on-field battles ahead.
Setting out his club’s position, Barnsley co-owner Conway told The Athletic: “People seem to think little old Barnsley will follow the rules and not make a fuss.
“If we’ve been wronged as a result of the league not following its own rules, then it stands to reason that we’d go against the league and its TV money and ask them to pay us the difference in revenue. We think that’s fair and we hope it will benefit other clubs who follow the rules and try to develop young talent.
“I’m an American and in American sports, we self-regulate — if someone breaks the rules, they are cheating the rest of us and we take action.
“We went through this two years ago, when we were five minutes from staying up on the last day only for Bolton to win and go above us. Everyone knew they were cheating the system and were hundreds of millions in debt.
“We decided not to do anything about it then but our attitude has changed. Relegation to League One cost us about £7 million in revenue. If something like that happens again, we’ll make a claim and we think we’ll have a strong case. We’re not asking for a change in the rules. We are asking for the rules to be followed.”
Wednesday sit 15th in the table, eight points clear of third-bottom Charlton Athletic. A mooted 12-point deduction in the event of a guilty finding over the FFP woes would see the club drop into the Addicks’ position.
A deduction of 21 points – a maximum punishment that would depend on an independent commission finding that the club had deliberately misled the EFL or that they had failed to cooperate with the investigation – would leave them bottom, some 14 points from safety with nine matches left to play.
Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet has seen his side rally in recent weeks to go within six points of safety and said any punishment to Wednesday must be enacted before the end of the season.
“All outstanding sanctions absolutely need to be brought to justice prior to any decision to close the season,” he said.
“However challenging our circumstances at the moment, the EFL’s integrity will be further compromised if clubs who have broken its rules are not penalised.”
Back in South Yorkshire Conway said: “Everyone gravitates towards the stadium sales but what about the black and white issues?
“We know of one club that didn’t pay its wages on time. We know of another that has been late posting financial statements. There are questions about contracts — whether they were paid or not. These are black and white issues.
“Every club in England seems to get the benefit of the doubt but the clubs who do it right get punished. It shocks me and I don’t understand it.
“If people start defaulting on transfer payments, there will be a ripple effect throughout the game. If clubs were struggling to pay their wages before the virus hit, what are they going to be like now? What’s the league going to do about it?
“If anything good is to come of this crisis, it must be a cleansing process for the game. The changes we want to see are going to be forced on clubs. Everyone will have less cash. If the EFL doesn’t change, we’ll just see an exodus of talent and those of us who are trying to create value, and are committed to youth, will go elsewhere.”
The Star has approached Sheffield Wednesday for comment.