Sheffield Wednesday’s accounts not that bad - if they can win promotion

IN RECENT years, Sheffield Wednesday’s financial losses have been eye-watering.

On several levels, their latest accounts for the last financial year ending July 31, 2021, again make for grim reading.

The club announced an operating loss of £25m – which equates to around £500,000 per week – to follow on from a deficit of £24m in their previous set of figures for the 2019-20 campaign.

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All told, their total losses stand at £124m and the club remain financially dependent upon owner Dejphon Chansiri.

Cutting costs: Marvin Johnson is an example of more prudent spending by Sheffield Wednesday but they are still financially beholden to Dejphon Chansiri (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Turnover in 2020-21 fell substantially from just under £21m to £11.7m, primarily due to home games being played behind closed doors during the campaign because of Covid-19.

The Owls’ wage bill decreased almost £9m from £30m to 21.1m, while the cost of the squad fell from almost £19m to £2m due to some key departures.

Wages will again fall in their next set of figures, with several big-hitters departing the club last summer.

It is here that leading football finance expert Kieran Maguire spies some welcome hope going forward for Wednesday, more especially if they achieve promotion this season.

Sheffield Wednesday captain Barry Bannan is still a big earner (Picture: Steve Ellis)

He told The Yorkshire Post: “We have seen Luton and Coventry do it and that’s giving hope to clubs. Hopefully, that will set a standard.

“I am not being critical, but the likes of Chansiri and Mel Morris thought they could buy their way to promotion. One got bored and walked out of football. To be fair, Chansiri could have done that, but didn’t. Wednesday aren’t in administration.

“Both have had their fingers burnt as have Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough and there’s lots of them (owners). Now they are saying: ‘Why are we paying £15,000 or £16,000 per week when we can do it on £11,000 or 12,000.”

Both the impact of Covid and some costly lessons in the transfer market, allied to sanctioning some expensive contracts in the early years of his tenure, are likely to mean that Chansiri will be more circumspect should the Owls return to the second tier.

Dejphon Chansiri (Picture: Steve Ellis)

It should be viewed as no bad thing for an owner whose decision to sell Hillsborough for about £60m to ensure the Owls did not breach spending rules saw the club docked 12 points in July 2020. On appeal, it was halved that November.

The latest accounts also revealed that instalments from the sale of the club’s stadium brought in £15m.

Maguire continued: “These (financial figures) are a legacy issue as far as Wednesday are concerned in that they gambled three or four years ago in terms of signing players on decent contracts and then they couldn’t get rid of them.

“Looking at this, most of them left at the end of 2021. There’s still Barry Bannan and that’s about it.

“It meant that the club really had its hands tied behind its back in the sense that they were committed in terms of contracts and money going out.

“Then was also the nightmare of Covid and for a big club like Wednesday with decent crowds, it gets hit proportionately more than some of the other clubs in the division, especially those who are not in receipt of parachute payments.

“The wage bill has come down significantly and I’d expect it to absolutely come down this season because (Jordan) Rhodes, (Kieren) Westwood and co have all gone.

“The benefit of this season is that the money has come back through the terraces but you are losing £6m of TV money, so the two are going to balance each other off. So the club really does need to get its costs under control.”

As Maguire rightly suggests, the progress of Luton and Coventry – two clubs who were in League One relatively recently – has shown that clubs do not have to spend millions to be high achievers in the second tier.

It is all down to smart recruitment and not wantonly paying big money.

Last summer, Wednesday recruited sensibly in bringing in proven and experienced players in the likes of free agents Lee Gregory, Jack Hunt and Marvin Johnson.

Others such as Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Florian Kamberi arrived on loan, with Harlee Dean and Jordan Storey being among those to arrive in January.

In comparison to a few years back, Wednesday are cutting their cloth accordingly.

Maguire said: “Wages roughly went up from £9,000 per week to 17,000 per week within two seasons (of Chansiri becoming owner at Sheffield Wednesday).

“If the players are good, then it is not an issue as there is always some club willing to buy, but when the players are a bit hit and miss, you are then stuck for four or five years until the contracts expire. I think that is what’s happened.

“What we have seen in quite a few owners is that they place trust in other people who do the recruitment for them and sometimes, that trust does not go both ways and they get let down.”