Sheffield Wednesday’s battle with the Football League shows no sign of abating, with the matter going to arbitration before the authorities can even start to deal with the misconduct charge which threatens to shape their season. At least the delay should leave them free to deal in January’s transfer window.
Even after Boxing Day’s last-minute collapse to struggling Stoke City, the Owls go into Sunday’s visit of Cardiff City fourth in the Championship.
This league is littered with setbacks and every single team will have them. But the key when you have a setback is how you respond to it and in as short a time period as you can.Garry Monk
It is all the more remarkable because of the distractions off the field.
The Owls’ owner Dejphon Chansiri, finance director John Redgate and former chief executive Katrien Meire have been charged with misconduct by the Football League (EFL) over the sale of Hillsborough to a company owned by Chansiri. The worst-case punishment for the club could be a 21-point deduction.
But Wednesday have claimed they will at least not be under a transfer embargo until the matter is resolved and given their determination to fight their corner, that could take some time.
Selling their stadium and leasing it back is a legitimate loophole to avoid falling foul of the League’s “profit and sustainability” rules, which limit each club’s losses to £39m over a three-year period.
What is at issue is the mechanics of the deal, which will see Chansiri’s company pay £60m over eight years, and its timing. Land Registry documents apparently show the deal was not completed in 2017-18, when the money was accounted for.
The club are not taking the accusations lying down, claiming they ran everything past the League beforehand, and lodging a claim for arbitration.
“The club is proceeding with its arbitration claim against the EFL that the charges issued by the EFL are unlawful and the process of appointing the arbitrators is currently under way,” read a brief statement on the Owls’ official website.
“No step will be taken in the disciplinary case, if at all, until the arbitration is resolved. The club can confirm that it is not under embargo.”
The League, which has handed the misconduct cases over to an independent commission, had insisted its “robust and comprehensive investigation fully justified the issuing of multiple charges of misconduct.”
An EFL spokesman said: “The EFL considers the claim brought by the club to be entirely without merit and is seeking an early determination to enable the disciplinary proceedings to continue.”
The case is unprecedented and the range of punishment so wide, it is hard to know what impact it could have on Wednesday’s season. It is in the interest of all parties that a resolution is reached before the campaign concludes on May 2.
Manager Garry Monk will be keen to reshape his squad in the mid-season transfer window, which runs from New Year’s Day until 11pm on January 31, having as recently as this week described his squad as “unbalanced”.
Until then, his only focus is on stopping Thursday’s shock 3-2 defeat becoming part of a pattern. “We’ve shown we can go on good winning runs and we want that again,” he argued. “This league is littered with setbacks and every single team will have them.
“But the key when you have a setback is how you respond to it and in as short a time period as you can.
“All eyes will be on the game on Sunday at home in front of our fans to show that fight and will to win.”
What the Owls do have as a result of their spending is a squad blessed with Premier League-quality talent. Few if any are as impressive as midfielder Barry Bannan, who scored his first goal of the season in last week’s victory over Bristol City.
“Barry’s a fantastic player, I knew that before I came,” Monk said of the former Aston Villa, Leeds United and Crystal Palace player.
“He’s a brilliant professional and he’s got a bit of everything about him. He’s tenacious, he’s driven and he’s good with the other players.
“He has to be one of the best midfielders in this league ability-wise, vision-wise and performance-wise. He’s playing very, very well, he’s helping this team and he wants to win. They’re the type of players you want.
“He has the ability to play in the Premier League and he’s proved that in the past. He has to keep doing what he’s doing because he gives a lot to the team. Everyone respects him and he respects them by performing and working hard in training every day.”
“That’s an example to all the younger lads who look up to him and the senior lads who look to him with respect.
“He’s fantastic lad and vitally important to us so we need him to continue the form he’s in.”