Sheffield Wednesday has come under renewed scrutiny over the sale of Hillsborough, with the English Football League (EFL) reported to have asked the Championship club why a £38m (€42.8m/$47m) profit for the deal was declared in its 2018 accounts when Land Registry documents dated the acquisition to almost a year later.
The fresh claims are made in The Times newspaper ahead of an EFL meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) when the issue of such deals is expected to be high on the agenda. The Hillsborough agreement was first reported in July when the club’s latest accounts detailed the £38m profit, without specifying the identity of the buyer.
At the time, Wednesday reported a pre-tax profit of £2.58m for the period spanning June 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018, a stark contrast to losses of £20.8m and £9.8m, respectively, in the previous two sets of accounts.
Losses in excess of £13m per year over a three-year term would breach the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules, and a number of Championship club have been accused in recent months of conducting stadium sale deals exploiting a loophole to stay complaint with financial fair play regulations.
In July, it was reported that Wednesday sold its ground to owner Dejphon Chansiri earlier this year before leasing it back in order to meet the EFL’s rules. However, although the accounts stated that Hillsborough was sold for about £60m during the 2017-18 period in question to deliver a £38m profit, they did not state the identity of the buyer.
Moreover, the Land Registry is said to have noted that the club still owns the venue, which has a capacity of nearly 40,000, while the accounts did not indicate that any cash was brought in after the sale.
Earlier this month it emerged that Middlesbrough was preparing to sue the EFL over Championship rival Derby County’s purchase of its own home. Middlesbrough was said to have made the unprecedented move of sending a legal letter to the EFL, alleging that the governing body of the three leagues below the Premier League failed to enforce its financial rules over the Derby deal.
Reading is another club to have come under scrutiny over similar deals, along with Aston Villa, after it emerged that its stadium, Villa Park, had been sold to a subsidiary company controlled by owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.
Image: Sheffield Wednesday