How happy are the club with the 150th anniversary celebrations?
We have organised some very successful events to celebrate our anniversary that have been overshadowed by the delay of the kit. A lot of focus has been on the kit, which I completely understand and covered in detail last week.
I also believe there was a level of expectation regarding a pre-season friendly against a big team from Europe. At the Steering Group meetings, we said we would try to secure a top European team to play in a summer friendly but made no promises.
We were being open with our intentions, we said we would do our best, and this we did. Unfortunately, the pre-season friendly market has changed dramatically in recent years. Most of the really top teams – this is where we were aiming – are now involved with the International Champions Cup, which takes place annually in America and other key territories around the world.
The tournament has become a central part of these clubs’ commercial programmes, which limits the potential and dates of pre-season friendlies elsewhere. In our case, mutually convenient dates were limited as the teams we wanted to play were either playing games or were on tour almost right up to the start of the Championship season.
We had discussions with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Manchester United. From those talks, we had pre-contract agreements in place with Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both agreed terms subject to finding a suitable date. However, their dates of preference were ultimately limited to after the start of our Championship season. We had options to play other teams from Europe but no one we felt of sufficient profile to warrant an anniversary game.
When Rangers became a possibility of a pre-season friendly following their exit from European competition, we agreed a package very quickly in view of how well received the friendly was between the two clubs in the summer of 2013.
I am pleased to say the anniversary weekend itself was a big success. We took a gamble by moving an established summer event in Owls in the Park to early September. Initially the plan was to hold a two-day event in Hillsborough Park but this was not possible due to a number of issues outside our control. But we still wanted to put on an event to remember for all our supporters and this was achieved with Owls in the Park that started early in the morning with the open training session and then ran all the way through into the night. Thankfully the weather held out to allow almost 20,000 fans to enjoy a fabulous day, finished by a firework display that quite literally lit up our stadium.
The following evening, on 4 September, we held the anniversary dinner at Ponds Forge that many people have said was one of the most memorable occasions we have ever hosted. To see so many of our supporters enjoying such an evening together with so many legendary figures from the history of Sheffield Wednesday was special to see.
Only the weekend before last, we hosted a unique event to mark the Olive Grove years of our club, which offered a fascinating insight into the roots of Sheffield Wednesday. I would personally like to thank everyone involved for putting together these very successful 150th anniversary events and everyone who attended.
I also wanted Sheffield Wednesday to enter the Guinness Book of Records to mark our anniversary and what better way than the world’s largest birthday cake?
Elsewhere, we have 20 lines of 150th anniversary merchandise on sale, including the Dream Scene, a wonderful painting that captures the legendary figures of our club in one superb piece of art. We were the first football club in the country to adapt the Dream Scene, following Real Madrid, and Liverpool have since revealed a similar project. We have also published two anniversary books and a 150-page programme that we believe was the biggest of its kind produced in this country.
Of course, our 150th anniversary is season-long and we have more to come in the coming months. If our supporters have any particular requests, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions as without the fans there would be no 150th anniversary to celebrate at all.