Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday column: Selling Hillsborough is okay if fans back scheme

What the EFL and other Championship clubs say and do is a matter for them. Outside that, the expected confirmation of Sheffield Wednesday selling and leasing back Hillsborough is, I think, mostly a matter for the Owls supporters.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019, 15:40
Owls Chairman Dejphon Chansiri

If they are comfortable with it as a means of easing restrictions on financing the team then fair enough.

Reservations would only come if there were sanctions as a result. But with Derby having sold their ground to the club’s owner and Aston Villa apparently considering a similar approach if they are not promoted, there is a growing strength in numbers. And of heavyweight outfits too.

It’s purely a manoeuvre, not made illegal. So it’s more a moral question than a potentially punitive one.

Does a football stadium represent the soul of a club rather than just an asset?

Could it harm the club longer-term not to be in ownership of its own ground?

In an ideal world, I think most supporters would have misgivings in those areas. But it’s not, is it? Not an ideal world, that is.

Personally, I’d prefer MY club not to go down such a route – but that is an irrelevance here. It’s about what Wednesday fans feel.

Above all, they’ve had to decide whether to trust the motivations and intentions of the owner.

If those are good (and there is no evidence to suggest they are not) and if a majority of supporters are happy to back the initiative (as seems to be the case) then I can find no fault.

It’s hard to argue against those who say the EFL should not allow such manipulation of its Profitability and Sustainability rules and should beef them up. But that is another matter entirely in the context of what is happening and, by and large, clubs will act out of self-interest.

Dejphon Chansiri has repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to taking Wednesday to the Premier League since buying the club in 2015.

Assuming this remains the case – as strongly indicated by the reported buy-and-lease back of the ground involving a family member – then it is only a question of semantics.

Strip everything away and the chairman owns the club, which in turn owns the ground.

As things stand, a buyer would have to fund the value of the club. The stadium would presumably stand outside of that.

Put the two together in one bundle – as is likely to be the case – and the price increases to cover both.

Yes, that can be a problem for a club and its fans – though only in the event of an owner losing interest and looking to walk away.

However, you can argue that the reverse is demonstrated by this ground ploy. If Chansiri’s commitment was weakening, wouldn’t he have been looking to sell before this point? Okay, he did suggest the club was for sale at the last fans’ forum back in December. But that was clearly a reflex of frustration in response to criticism.

In fact, he had already put in place a plan to appoint Steve Bruce – which was hardly the action of a man looking to get out.

But he can do as he pleases in this position, much as I think he understands he is a custodian for the real “owners”, who will always be the fans.

So it is solely a question for those supporters at this point. And if they are happy with what happens next then, for me, it ends the argument.