Sheffield Wednesday gets 50 year-old compensation claim

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THE former parent company of Sheffield Wednesday, which was officially dissolved 18 months ago, has been brought back into existence after the club received a compensation claim relating to asbestos at the Hillsborough stadium nearly 50 years ago.

A man who worked on redeveloping Hillsborough in preparation for the ground hosting World Cup matches in 1966 is bringing a claim after contracting an asbestos-related illness.

The law firm representing Alan Foster has secured a High Court order formally restoring Sheffield Wednesday PLC to the Register of Companies to enable the legal action to go ahead against the company responsible for Hillsborough in the 1960s.

John Pickering and Partners said Mr Foster did not wish to comment on claim but it is understood he worked on rebuilding the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

Sheffield Wednesday said the club could not comment on the details of the claim as it is an ongoing case.

But a spokesman stressed the ‘resuscitation’ of the PLC as a corporate entity was entirely unrelated to any legal actions that may yet follow further investigations into the cause of the Hillsborough Disaster.

The spokesman also stressed there was no suggestion of any issue with asbestos at the ground now and the damages claim relates only to historical events.

Sheffield Wednesday PLC was formally struck off the Register of Companies in July 2011 just over six months after businessman Milan Mandaric launched a last-ditch takeover of the debt-ridden club.

The PLC was struggling to stay afloat with debts of more than £30m and facing a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs when Mr Mandaric negotiated a deal to acquire the club.

The takeover, completed in December 2010, resulted in the PLC debts being settled and the parent company effectively ceasing to exist.

The deal involved Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Ltd, a subsidiary of the PLC, remaining in existence and retaining all the assets of the club when it was acquired by Mr Mandaric.

The court order reinstating the PLC, filed at Companies House, does not disclose any further details about Mr Foster’s identity.

The compensation claim has to be lodged against the company responsible at the time. Sheffield Wednesday PLC had existed as a single corporate entity since 1899.

In reality, any settlement that results is likely to fall on the PLC’s insurers as the PLC no longer holds any assets. The claim is thought to be for less than a six-figure sum.

The law firm bringing the claim is John Pickering and Partners, whose headquarters are in Liverpool, and the limited detail on the court order – which identifies the solicitors – prompted initial speculation the action was related to the Hillsborough Disaster which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool supporters at the ground in 1989.

But the action is being handled by the law firm’s Sheffield office. Solicitor David Cass, who specialises in asbestos-related claims, said he could not comment on the legal action yesterday.

Although few details surrounding the claim are known, it is understood it is currently an isolated one and the club is not facing any further actions involving asbestos at the ground.

It is also believed Mr Foster was not directly employed by the club at the time and worked for a contractor.