UNCERTAINTY surrounding Milan Mandaric’s future as chairman of Sheffield Wednesday was removed yesterday at Southwark Crown Court.
The decision by jurors to acquit him of cheating the public revenue ensured that he was free to continue in the role he acquired 14 months ago.
For the Owls, it could yet be the biggest result of the season.
Currently second in the League One table, a return to the Championship looks firmly on the cards.
If Mandaric had been found guilty, it could have destabilised so much of the good going on at Hillsborough.
For a start, under Football League rules, Mandaric would have been compelled to step down as chairman. He might also have opted to walk away from the game – offended by the slur on his name.
The Owls had endured more than a decade in decline prior to the Serbian’s arrival; his departure now, or in the near future, would be a crushing blow.
Without the financial support of the former Portsmouth chairman, manager Gary Megson would not have been able to assemble one of the best squads in League One.
Players including Danny Batth and Ben Marshall have stepped down from the Premier League to play on loan for the Owls and been massive hits. Others including Jose Semedo and Stephen Bywater have been tempted by the competitive nature of the club’s pay-scale.
Only last month, the club released figures showing that Mandaric’s takeover wiped out a £41m debt which had previously strangled the club’s spending power. Mandaric also revealed that the Owls will lose nearly £5m chasing promotion this season.
At 73, this will probably be his final challenge in football and, judging by his track record, he is not going to allow it to end in failure.
Standing on the courtroom steps yesterday, he admitted that he planned to check his tank for ‘enthusiasm’. It is inconceivable that the tank will be empty.
“I have got to go somewhere to try to pinch myself and wake me up from the horrible dream that I had in the past,” he said. “Right now I have got to find out how much more is in my enthusiastic tank – energy and enthusiasm – to go back to go and win more games. I am here, as all of you know, for the love of the game and love of the country and I will try to do my best going forward.”
Mandaric has developed a real passion for Sheffield Wednesday and the feelings towards him from the club’s supporters are mutual. “Whatever I do here, I want to do it right, properly for the supporters,” he told the Yorkshire Post recently.
Mandaric lives in properties across the globe but rarely misses a home game and attends as many on the road as possible. If the current position in the promotion race won’t re-charge any ‘lost’ enthusiam, nothing will.
“I am delighted I have been cleared of these totally unfounded allegations of tax evasion. It is clear they should never have been brought to court,” he said. “I never doubted the truth would prevail nor the fact that the British justice system would come to the right conclusion.
“I came to Britain 12 years ago because of my love of football and have since saved three much-loved football clubs which were on the brink of extinction. As a result I have saved thousands of jobs and paid tens of millions of pounds into the public purse through tax. To suggest I would cheat the tax man is highly offensive to me, my family, my associates and friends.
“I am happy that my good name and reputation have been upheld,” he added. “And I wish to express my gratitude to my many football fans, friends, and family for all their support. They have been a great source of strength to me.”
Between now and the end of the season, Mandaric will be fully supportive of the Owls and the promotion push. If Megson needs help in the loan market, it will be there. The target is promotion, the competition breathing down the neck. With Mandaric still around, the Owls have a far better chance of success.