Since I bought our club in February 2015 I have always made every decision in the best interests of Sheffield Wednesday. Sometimes those decisions have not been popular, which I understand, but the intention was and is always the same – for the good of Wednesday. The decision I am making now with this statement is also not easy but something I need to do.
I have always tried to do my best, which I will continue to do for every day, week and year I remain chairman. Sometimes, given the restraints that Championship clubs must work within, every effort is not enough. The embargo we were under filled me with sadness, it still does, I never wanted this as Wednesday owner and I apologise to our supporters.
Many people have suggested that I invested the amount of money I did – and continue to do – in order to achieve promotion to the Premier League. But this is not correct. I invested these sums to stay in the Championship, to ensure we would have the best chance of avoiding relegation. If promotion came, then great, but building from the bottom gave us the best opportunity of getting to the top.
The Championship is incredibly competitive and gets stronger and stronger each year with the parachute money from the Premier League clubs coming into this division. Owners who have not spent big sums before are now doing so just to remain competitive and first of all, stay in this division and we must challenge with them and others in the division.
At fans’ forums and Steering Group meetings, I have warned of the problems we will face with the Profitability and Sustainability regulations if we did not get promoted. The same is true as I write today. Unless we achieve promotion this season, we will again experience problems. I said it then and I say it now because I do not wish for bad surprises for our supporters. I wish to say it how it is and that way it is clear on both sides.
To make our situation 100% clear, we are not under any kind of embargo right now. However, if our problems cannot be solved by March when we submit our accounts to the EFL, another soft embargo is inevitable. This will become a full embargo if again the problems cannot be solved at the end of the financial year.
I never ask for anything more than the best support possible from our loyal fans and with the Profit and Sustainability regulations, I repeat I cannot solve the problems we have as a club alone. We have to solve these issues together as these problems are not going to disappear. The solution we worked so hard to achieve this year will not matter next year, when the same problems will arise if we do not get promoted.
Normally you cannot spend like this every year, probably just two years maximum given the regulations in place. But our spending extended to three years and if you do not break P&S in that time, it is inevitable in the future, so I believe other clubs will find themselves in a similar situation this year and next and in the years ahead. It was very hard to accept any kind of embargo because when I arrived here I came to do better, make things better for everyone.
Many fans have told me they are scared that if I leave Wednesday, which would break my heart, our club will be worse than before but to those fears, I say do not worry. Whatever I decide now or in the future, Sheffield Wednesday will be in a stronger position than before my time, that is my word.
I have never thought about worth or value to myself or my family since I am here, I have never had one penny from Wednesday. I have always put our fans first and never thought about business because that would conflict with the ambitions and emotions everyone connected to our club has. Throughout my life, I have never done business before like this. Normally, a business will think of profit first but if we want to stay in this division and also have a chance of promotion, this is impossible and I understand that.
Some people think I want promotion to make a profit but the investment required to stay in the Premier League makes that impossible and it was never my intention anyway. It would probably take four or five years in the Premier League to break even and then more before anyone could even think about profit. So as an owner, until many years down the line, I lose either way.
But I do not have a problem with that, I knew this would be the case when I bought our club. I could have made a profit in the Championship already if I really wanted to by not buying the players or buying players and selling them for much more. But I never wanted to do that. I wanted the best for our fans and our club because I have commitment and responsibility as the chairman and owner. If I thought that way, it would be much easier to manage Wednesday.
Some have said why not spend smaller amounts of money and still aim for promotion but football has changed a lot in recent years and how many clubs will realistically achieve that target? There will be some examples as this is football but very few. That level of investment went into Wednesday 15 years and more before my time without success when it was not so hard as it is today.
So with the problems we faced, I believe many people thought they were not true as there are too many experts on Sheffield Wednesday who are really no experts at all. I have said for a long time that I cannot do this by myself but if I could, I would. Money is not the issue here, it is all about revenue, that is the difference. I have done everything I can in my power. This is why I launched Club 1867 last time and this is why I will launch a new version of Club 1867 again, with pricing and structures to enable as many fans as possible to help avoid the problems we could face again. No one fully understands how hard it has been for me to solve the problems last time, something I never wish to experience alone ever again.
If someone asks me to not spend and do like in the past, I cannot accept that because then there is a risk of relegation and no chance at all of promotion. That is not the ambition I have for Sheffield Wednesday. It is not the ambition of our fans. But I have the responsibility. I want to know how many people could manage this club with responsibility because it so easy to do it without. I believe that if anyone else managed our club, they would think about profit.
I have learned a lot about football in the time I have been here. Some people right now think the worst of me but I know that had we been promoted in the first two years when we reached the play-offs I would have been the hero, the coach would have been the hero, recruitment and other negative things would never have been brought into question. I would like to say once more that I have used the same recruitment team since I started, other than the change of the coaches, of course. If anyone suggests someone who has now left was the one responsible for recruitment I can categorically say that is not true or they would still be here.
Since I am here I have wanted trust. I want our fans to show it is not just my money they want me to spend. Now is the time for everyone to come together and show trust and not just give the word. We can make our club the very best. I have never asked anyone who cannot afford to buy anything for even one penny. To those who invested in Club 1867, I say thank you for supporting me without thinking of worth. I can also think of worth myself but I do not wish to do that, I want to finish the job I started but we have a problem that we can only solve together. If our fans really trust me, we will go together for the next part of the 1867 campaign and I truly hope we will be a great team.