Sheffield Wednesday – Fallen giants looking for a reset

AT LONG last, Sheffield Wednesday released their accounts for 2019-20 season, just a few months after publishing their 2018-19 figures. Some might say these are grim times for the Owls and their relegation to League One was attributable to a six-point deduction (reduced from 12) imposed on the club for failure to pay players.

Wednesday now find themselves in a division that also includes Sunderland, Ipswich Town and Portsmouth, all clubs that have been league champions in the past. Wednesday remain a big club on paper with the potential to draw 25,000 crowds to Hillsborough even on a bad day.

Wednesday’s financials for 2019-20 don’t make very pleasant reading, they made a pre-tax loss of £ 24 million, about average for the Championship. It represented a negative swing of more than £ 40 million, but it has to be noted that the club only made a pre-tax profit in 2018-19 because of the £ 38 million profit from the sale of Hillsborough to owner Dejphon Chansiri. The club paid £ 2.5 million in rent in order to play at their historic ground in 2019-20. Wednesday, however, consistently lose money and the only other profit in the past decade was down to the waiver on a £ 21 million loan.

Wednesday’s turnover fell by 8% in 2019-20 to £ 20.9 million, with matchday income down by 23%. Due to the pandemic, the club lost five home matches in terms of revenues, so the 2020-21 campaign will surely reveal further losses as virtually the entire home programme was played in front of an empty Hillsborough.

Wednesday combine their broadcasting and commercial revenues in their financial statements, but it is reasonable to assume there was little change in both streams – the combined total was £14.2 million, just a little higher than 2018-19. 

Where the club did show an increase was in their profit on player trading which reached a record £ 6.2 million. Wednesday have, consistently, failed to leverage the talent they develop and nurture themselves. Liam Shaw and Ozaze Urhoghide have both left for Celtic for very modest fees despite being highly-valued in the past.

Wednesday’s wage bill, at £ 33.5 million, was a worrying 161% of income, slightly up on 2018-19 but less than 2017-18’s 168%. Needless to say, the wage bill is still at an unsustainable level and the club will surely continue birng costs down to a more manageable level. Wednesday’s net debt has declined by £ 20 million since 2018 and fell by £ 7 million from 2019 to £ 57 million. 

Since relegation, player turnover has been high at Wednesday – 13 left in the days that followed the end of the campaign. More than 20 have departed Hillsborough since the start of July 2021.  Manager Darren Moore aims to reduce the average age of the squad as efforts to trim the wage bill gather momentum. The club has also lowered prices at Hillsborough for 2021-22 quite significantly.

Sheffield Wednesday are, naturally, among the favourites for promotion and with a financial reset in progress, getting back to the Championship as soon as possible will be a priority. But with the likes of Sunderland and Ipswich in the mix, League One is set to be very competitive.


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