Alarm bells ringing as financial revelations mount up

Last updated : 29 May 2021 By C. Morris

Owls keep making the news for the wrong reasons

After a season to forget in the 2020-21 campaign, Sheffield Wednesday supporters could perhaps have been hoping for light at the end of the tunnel and a new dawn to start a recovery from in 2021-22 but as things stand the current situation points towards yet more problems rather than solutions.

The Owls kicked off the 2020-21 season on -12 points having been sanctioned for financial issues. The deduction got reduced to -6 but a string off off-field and on-field issues saw the Owls struggle to overcome this and although they took their survival chances to the last day of the season, a draw at Derby County saw them finish bottom of the Championship, relegated to League One.

Wednesday’s problems have been largely down to a failure to sell players for good fees and allowing high earners to run down their contracts and leave for nothing, the wage bill has far outweighed income, even before the effects of the global pandemic.

The past couple of seasons have seen high earners leave however and the wage bill reduced, the end of the 2020/21 season in particular has seen many of the big names on big money depart. With this there was hope that things might start to turn around, giving the club a platform to rebuild from at a lower, more manageable level. Recent revelations however suggest that this is far from the case and there are plenty more hurdles to overcome before the path to recovery becomes clearer.

For starters, it has been widely reported that the club are currently under a transfer embargo relating to late accounts. Although the latest set of financial accounts are not yet overdue with Companies House, clubs are supposed to file provisional data with the EFL at an earlier date, which the Owls, like some other clubs may have missed. Coventry City reported on Friday that they had their embargo lifted as a result of filing their accounts in line with a sanctioned government extension. Local media reports suggest the Owls do hope to have their apparent embargo lifted shortly but with the summer transfer window opening next week and the team desperately short of players, this can’t come soon enough.

The Telegraph also reported that Wednesday have recently proposed to put players on furlough, a move which the players are said to have rejected. The government and the EFL have consulted on the issue of player furlough over the close season and a number of clubs are thought to be exploring this option. However, the scheme only pays a maximum of £2,500 per month for each employee and so while it would represent a saving for the club, there would still be a significant amount of wages for the club to fulfil, which leads onto the next issue……

It has once again been reported widely that Sheffield Wednesday have failed to make full payments to playing staff on time for the previous month. This is an issue that has reared its head a few times over the past year, with payments made in part or delayed in some months.

Now we have the statement confirming that the refunds for 2019-20 season ticket holders will not be fully completed by the planned date of the end of May, further highlighting problems with cashflow.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many professional football clubs hard but having suffered a points deduction last season as a result of financial problems, having sold their ground in a bid to improve their immediate accounting position and with a wage bill that has been far in excess of income for way too long, Wednesday are in a tunnel from which it is currently difficult to see the light.