As people reading this will know, I’m someone who isn’t backwards in coming forward. I always feel that honesty is the best policy, and if you believe strongly about something, you should come out and say it.
This article is based on Ian Bennett’s appearance on Alan Biggs’ show, which I will link here – Part 1 Part 2. First, I want to point out I have no ill towards either Ian or Alan. On the contrary, I thought Ian spoke well and with enthusiasm. I’ve always respected Alan and was happy to have a brief chat with him post-Plymouth outside Hillsborough.
Where Sheffield Wednesday are concerned, a lot gets said. People have different experiences, and I can only use mine to make points. And they are what I’ll use later in this piece.
I want to start by talking through a few things said on Alan’s show, primarily by Ian. The quotes won’t be exact, but they should be close enough. I will then give my feelings on the SWFC Trust and talk about my personal experiences with Sheffield Wednesday as a football club and the people within it.
Ian suggests that people on the Engagement Panel at SWFC, other fans groups, and so on, are supporters of the club, but not as vociferous.
I have concerns about this on several fronts. The first being that this is an engagement panel. Is it not designed for people to work together? It shouldn’t be a place where there is a demand for people to be forthright. On occasions, maybe. But isn’t the panel there to engage, collaborate and discuss respectfully?
I also see Ian’s comment as a negative towards other groups on the engagement panel – a panel that the Trust was a member of but then was asked to leave.
Ian suggests that he/the Trust can’t understand why they’re ignored when intelligent and knowledgeable people are involved, including Chris Turner, solicitors, business people, etc.
Here I’d question whether the Trust believes they are more “qualified” than other supporters groups, including those on the panel, because of their members, representatives, and so on. As far as I’m aware, everyone on the panel is equal, and their vote counts for no more or less than that of others. The same applies to supporters in general.
A question for the Trust from me is, have any offers by the people who can assist SWFC been put forward? And, I don’t mean just saying they’re available to help. Has anyone said this is what I can do to help? This is how I can do it. Let’s work together? Or words to that effect.
If you’re critical, you’re an enemy of the club.
For many years, I believed this was the case. I have been incredibly outspoken and critical of SWFC and the people there, something I will come onto later in this piece. I will add that if you are critical, I don’t believe you’re an enemy.
When I look back at the things I’ve said, even direct to people’s faces, it has all come down to how I’ve said it and my belief that what I’m saying is correct and everything else is wrong, dismissing it out of hand.
I don’t think anyone likes to be criticised. I certainly don’t enjoy it. But, if you can offer criticism and be open-minded, there is the opportunity for healthy debate. And this applies to SWFC.
A weakness of Mr Chansiri is that he doesn’t want to engage.
I have always found the Chairman to be someone who wants to engage, rather than not. If you have ever attended a Fans Forum or Steering Group meeting, you will know that he enjoys engaging, gathering the opinions of others, and generally just chatting.
How I take Ian’s comment here is that he means the Chairman doesn’t want to engage in terms of listening to the Trust and potentially others about SWFC matters.
I believe the Trust was a member of an engagement panel that SWFC set up, and the Chairman has involvement with it. He’s met fans over the years, including myself, and those critical, to talk. He’s done one on one meetings, as well as with small and large groups. He’s spoken to some members of the local media and done a couple of zooms during the pandemic.
Runs it as a dictatorship
I think the dictatorship is something that has been put about for years. Ian also mentions Doyen Sports, advisors etc., something that I will come onto shortly, but I think it’s also relevant here.
There have been suggestions, not least from myself in the past, that the Chairman has been poorly advised. But, if this is the case, and he was a dictator of sorts, why would he have listened to Doyen Sports, Amadeu Paixao, etc.? Why would he have paid the multiple people he has paid if he was only ever going to do as he pleased?
I think it’s also worth pointing out that the Trust, as I believe, requested the Chairman take a step back. And, what have we seen from this summer onwards? The Chairman has left Darren and the recruitment team to it where this area of the club is concerned.
Running the club for us
I agree with the sentiment that a football club owner is a custodian. Of course, a football club will be here long after the current Chairman, manager, players and so on have been and gone.
My issue with suggesting that the Chairman is running the club for us is akin to saying we’re his boss. I can see why this would get any owner’s back up. You could look at it like this; fans call for managers to be fired quite regularly. But, if firing the manager proves to be the wrong decision, who will get the blame? The fans?
Supporters will also make suggestions about players their club should sign. If we bring them, and it doesn’t work, are the fans criticised for the recruitment? Or is it the manager, recruitment team, chairman etc.?
Ian suggests the Chairman believes the fans don’t want to put ££ in and then says about the money he has spent as a fan.
Money will always be relative. I’m a season ticket holder in the South Stand. I spend money and have spent money as a supporter—the same as Ian and every other fan out there. But, does it compare to the multi-millions continually invested into SWFC? It depends if you believe the Chairman’s money is relative to what we have as supporters.
All you can be sure of here is that fans put their money in, and so does the Chairman.
Brick wall unless you agree with him
Ian suggests that there is a brick wall in place unless you agree with the Chairman. I can say here that if I have ever disagreed with the Chairman, and believe me, there’s been countless times, he asks why? He wants the debate. He wants you to tell him why you disagree.
I know for sure that while many will think he has yes men around him, he doesn’t, and I feel it’s quite disrespectful towards people who will say their piece. You can’t judge people around the Chairman based on your feelings towards him.
Alan makes a point about the negativity the Chairman will see
I think this is an excellent point by Alan. He suggests looking at it from the Chairman’s point of view, with the negativity he will see, which could force him to retreat, or words to that effect.
I think this is on the money. Unfortunately, there is a lot of negativity surrounding SWFC, even during the better times. A lot of it is aimed at the Chairman, rightly or wrongly. And, from my personal experience, he’s an emotional guy.
It can’t be good for anyone when you’re repeatedly taking hammer on social media, forums, Facebook groups and so on.
Advisors, Doyen Sports, bringing players on ridiculous wages.
I have done tons of digging on the various people the Chairman has had around him in the past, Doyen Sports, Amadeu Paixao etc. I’d go as far as saying I was obsessed. And, I made more fans than anyone aware of these people and organisations. However, it’s all in the past. What is important is the here and now and moving forward.
On the ridiculous wages comment, the Chairman and any other will never win here. So you won’t hear many fans criticising them when they’re bringing good players, paying big wages and so on, when things are going well. As fans, you want the owner to show ambition, which basically means spending big.
Ian suggests the season ticket release was a cash grab, out of touch, and that if the Chairman was open about the finances, fans would support him.
On the release of the season tickets in December, I feel this was a colossal error, and I made my feelings clear to people at SWFC on the matter as a supporter. Whether it was a “cash grab” or not, I think it was the worst timing possible and should never have happened. And they should have stepped back immediately.
However, on the point that if the Chairman suggested we need money to help with cash flow and so on, that fans wouldn’t be keen to help him, as many will ask why should they? A lot of fans are anti-Chairman, so why would they back him? Especially those eager for him to sell.
After typing over 1600 words, I will end this piece here and then do a separate one about my personal experiences, which may be of interest to some.
Thanks for reading.