In the words of Meatloaf, ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’ for Sheffield Wednesday
The written reasons regarding Sheffield Wednesday’s lengthy case with the English Football League don’t make good reading for anybody, but victory for the Owls on two fronts was vitally important.
Supporters – and journalists alike – were left with plenty of questions after 51-pages worth of information on SWFC’s EFL case was released to the public, a case that ended with Wednesday being handed a 12-point deduction – which they intend to appeal.
Only two charges are mentioned. Charge 1, that SWFC had breached the league’s Profitability and Sustainability rules, and Charge 2, that the club ‘sought to deliberately conceal from the EFL that the Heads of Terms had been backdated’. But there’s thought to have been a third charge of misconduct against Dejphon Chansiri, Katrien Meire and John Redgate that was lodged in November but dropped in March.
Victory in Charge 2 and what we can call Charge 3 (though it was never acknowledged officially) is far more important than being found guilty of Charge 1 – so in the words of Meatloaf, ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’.
I say so because even though the commission leaves many questions to be asked of the club – such as why was the stadium sale not done on time? Why weren’t things expedited when a breach looked likely? And what exactly lies ahead? It was vitally important that the other charges were found to be false.
Also, while not a charge, the fact that the Independent Disciplinary Commission rejected the EFL’s request to relegate last season was also a victory.
Had Wednesday been found guilty of looking to ‘deliberately conceal’ things from the EFL then the ramifications could’ve been limitless – hefty fines, 21-point deduction, even expulsion from the league could’ve been on the table.
Likewise with Chansiri, Meire and Redgate, they could’ve been banned from English football completely if found guilty of misconduct. With the chairman, that would’ve left the club ownerless and in truly dire straits – it could’ve put the future of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club at serious risk.
The IDC shut down attempts from the EFL’s lawyers to prove misconduct against the Wednesday trio – who they accused of exaggerating, conspiracy and lying.
Regarding Chansiri, the commission stated: “We can at the outset say that we do not accept the contention of the EFL that he gave evidence in a manner ‘apparently deliberately designed to make it difficult to follow or to assess his credibility’.
“Nor do we accept that ‘he appeared to exaggerate his difficulty in speaking English’. He was plainly, in our view, at a disadvantage when dealing with lengthy, complicated questions and endeavouring to articulate an answer. His written English, to be deduced from various emails we have seen, is not always easy to understand.”
Regarding an email from Meire to Chansiri where potentially back-dating the sale of Hillsborough was brought up, the commission said: “In the first place, it does indicate that KM's perception was that something with retrospective effect was going to be required for the P&S Rules to be met. If it was plain to everyone at the meeting (whatever their subsequent beliefs about what was said) that there was no binding agreement of sale in place, then it was equally plain to everyone present that something with retroactive effect would be required to fill that gap.
“Second, KM's discomfort was, she explained credibly, primarily that she was concerned about the perception that back-dating any agreement would create for those who would be interested in what the Club had done, particularly representatives of other clubs.”
And regarding accusations of Redgate ‘lying’, the IDC said, “Mr Redgate was pressed hard by Mr Phillips about whether back-dating had ever been mentioned at the meeting or over the weekend before the further communications with the EFL. His evidence was that it was not. He was confronted with KM's email, but repeated that, so far as he was concerned, no-one had specifically mentioned back-dating prior to the Monday. (KM and DC attended a Club match on the Saturday. JR did not).” – That game was Wigan Athletic away.
“In the EFL's Closing Submissions, JR is accused of lying about this, although the assertion was not put expressly to him. We do not accept that. There was no basis for thinking that he had any part in any conversations between KM and DC over the weekend. He was wrong when he said that it was not until the Club heard from the EFL on Monday that back-dating was first raised because he had, about an hour before the EFL email was received, suggested to KM, following an unsuccessful request made to DC's lawyers in Thailand to draft a sale agreement, that she should prepare something and date it 31 July.
“We do not know what, if any, advice was given by the Thai lawyers or whether JR simply assumed that the contract would have to be dated no later than 31 July, but we reject the suggestion that his answer was a deliberate lie. In one sense, as we have said already, back-dating was an inevitable consequence of where the Club was on the Monday morning following the Friday meeting.”
Wednesday need to learn lessons from this saga, but lessons also need to be learned regarding the way Profitability and Sustainability works in the EFL after a number of damning assessments from the IDC.
The appeal hearing is expected to take place in autumn and should be done and dusted by Christmas, but the repercussions from this case should reflect in how the club and the league do things going forward, because nobody wants to go through this again.