Sheffield Wednesday charged with misconduct over Hillsborough sale

Louise Taylor and David Conn on 14 November 2019

Sheffield Wednesday are facing severe sanctions after being charged with misconduct by the English Football League but say they will “vigorously defend” their position in relation to spending rules.

The charges involve alleged accounting manoeuvres connected to the Championship club’s sale of Hillsborough to their owner, Dejphon Chansiri, in an attempt to stay within the EFL profit and sustainability regulations. These dictate that Championship teams are permitted to lose a maximum of £39m over three years.

Wednesday sold Hillsborough for £60m to a company, Sheffield 3, owned by Chansiri, generating a £38m profit which, in turn, helped them record a pre-tax profit of £2.5m for 2017-18. Significantly, the charges concern “how and when” the stadium was sold and its inclusion in the 2018 accounts when the equity was transferred a year later.

Had the promotion-chasing club not sold their ground they would have posted a pre-tax loss of £35.4m for the financial year covering the 2017-18 campaign. Considering they had lost £9.8m and £20.8m in the previous two seasons, Wednesday would have been well in excess of the permitted spending threshold.

The fact they have been charged with misconduct rather than a straight rule breach suggests the EFL regards their behaviour as an aggravated circumvention of the spending edicts. Birmingham, who were deducted nine points for breaking the profit and sustainability regulations in March, did not face a misconduct charge and its potential for the toughest sanctions.

If found guilty, Wednesday, whose problems with the same rules led to them being placed under a transfer embargo during the summer of 2018, could face “any sanction”. The possibilities range from a reprimand to a points deduction, a financial penalty or, in extreme cases, expulsion from the league. A hefty points deduction – possibly up to 21 points – is understood to be the most likely outcome.

After reviewing a “large number of documents” relating to the sale, the EFL said there was “sufficient evidence to justify issuing” the charges, which will be considered by an independent disciplinary commission.

“The charges are in respect of a number of allegations regarding the process of how and when the stadium was sold and the inclusion of the profits in the 2017-18 accounts,” the EFL said in a statement.

Wednesday – eighth in the second tier – issued a short statement: “These charges will be vigorously defended. The club will be making no further comment at this time.”

The sale of stadiums by clubs in the Championship is highly controversial, with the Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, having been a critic following the sale by Derby of Pride Park. Derby said in September: “The EFL indicated in writing that the arrangement was in accordance with its rules and regulations.”

Macclesfield of League Two have also been charged with misconduct over the non-payment of players.

The two disciplinary charges were issued in the early weeks of Rick Parry’s tenure as the EFL chairman.

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