Sheffield – an underperforming city

RUN YOUR finger along the list of Premier League towns and cities and there’s a glaring omission – Sheffield. Not just because the city has a rich football heritage is the absence of a team from “steel city” notable, but also because the only place with a bigger population than Sheffield in the current list of 20 clubs is none other than London. Sheffield has a population of around 558,000 and its total metropolitan area is 1.6 million, making it the third largest English district by the number of people.

When you consider that statistic, Sheffield, as a football city, has certainly underachieved, with just 13 major trophies won by its two significant professional clubs – United and Wednesday.

Sheffield’s links to football date back to 1857, when Sheffield FC was formed, a club that today claims to be the oldest existing club still playing the game. The formulation of the Sheffield Rules took place in 1860, giving Association Football the basis for the code that has stood the test of time.

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State of Play: Sheffield Wednesday – club for sale?

JUST BEFORE Christmas 2018, Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri hinted that he was prepared to sell the club he bought for £ 37.5 million back in 2015. He was speaking at a fans’ meeting and the subject of the club’s finances was being discussed. Sheffield Wednesday had been spending significant sums on wages and continued to make substantial losses. The current situation was unsustainable and had already  incurred Wednesday a transfer embargo. The increased outlay, now seen as a gamble on getting the club into the Premier League by 2017-18, the club’s 150thanniversary, had not worked.

Sheffield Wednesday are one of a number of clubs with the size, support, heritage and potential to climb higher, but their best days are clearly behind them. They are a name that belongs to the past, although with the right investment and vision and of course, patience, Sheffield Wednesday could certainly rise higher than their current status.

Sheffield, with a population of 520,000 is a two-club city and the dynamic between Wednesday and their neighbours Sheffield United makes it something of an important football hub. The city has, after all, the world’s oldest football club in Sheffield FC.

Whether or not Chansiri meant what he said about selling, it would seem that Sheffield Wednesday and their owner may have reached a crucial stage of their relationship. The Thai’s honesty about the club’s current position deserves credit, but surely, it is a financial situation of their own creation? From a motivational perspective, Chansiri must wonder where he turns next in terms of Wednesday’s immediate future. If, indeed, the club is in danger of an embargo, one solution could be for Chansiri to inject a large amount of cash that can win the team promotion and then suffer the consequences. But has he tired of propping-up a club that has posted losses year-after-year? At the moment, it appears he’s trying to force the fanbase to show its commitment to the club and provide substantial income through the scheme he has launched – he may end-up being somewhat disappointed. The alternative is to push ahead and sell the club. The Sheffield Wednesday name still has cachet and is certainly an attractive proposition – this is a Premier club based on its potential and public appeal, albeit a lapse Premier club. But in this age of clubs being propelled to success through large capital investments, it may be that Wednesday’s only way back to the top deck could be if a new, extremely wealthy investor flies over the West Riding in a private jet and likes the view below…

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State of Play Sheffield Wednesday

Photos: PA