SHEFFIELD UNITED’S transfer spending including a decision on what to do with the £12million received for midfielder David Brooks, appears to be in the hands of the courts after a complete breakdown in the relationship between its owners.
This follows a bizarre and sensational twist in Kevin McCabe’s battle for full control of the club in which he claims to “have been tricked”.
The long-running dispute with Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who bought 50 per cent share for £1 in 2013, cannot be settled between the two men who are undisguised bitter foes. It will now be resolved through the legal system at a date still to be determined in which the club’s dirty laundry will be aired in full view.
It is reported that at preliminary hearing in London one area of disagreement has been over how much needs to be spent on players for next season.
‘Business managers’ Mr Justice Fancourt was told, say the club needs £10m until January. That calls into question just what financial assurances were given by the owners to manager Chris Wilder who threatened to quit at the end of the season.
Judge Fancourt said Mr McCabe and his family own Sheffield United Ltd, while Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a Saudi royal, owns UTB LLC.
Each owns fifty per cent of shares in Blades Leisure Ltd, which owned all shares in The Sheffield United Football Club Ltd and runs the club.
It was revealed that In 2013, Prince Abdullah’s organisation, UTB LLC, invested £10m after buying a half share of Blades Leisure for a nominal £1 at McCabe’s behest.
But a series of disagreements on spending since 2017 have led to relations between McCabe and the Saudi prince to deteriorate “badly’. The judge said when the Blades offered to buy shares, UTB responded with a “manoeuvre” meaning it was entitled to purchase all Sheffield's shares at a low price causing “consternation and upset".
Judge Fancourt said the McCabes felt ‘tricked’, the two men fell out badly and UTB sued Sheffield United Ltd. The club made a counter claim. McCabe says he is “even willing to give up his involvement in the football club” over the row if it means also ending the Saudi Prince’s interest.
Worryingly for the immediate future of the club Judge Fancourt said it was “impossible” to say which firm, if any, will emerge in control.
This latest development follows an end-of-season stand-off between team boss Wilder and the owners. He expressed concerns about the future managerial model and the ambition of the owners in relation to improving funding to bring in better quality players in key identified positions. Wilder, a lifelong Blades fan and former United player, was even prepared to walk away if the issues were not resolved.
After receiving assurances that his managerial authority would not be interfered with regarding recruitment and the running of the team, and the promise of increased funding, Wilder said: “We'll get the maximum out of the budget and we'll be diligent as we've always been. I'm grateful that the owners have found money to improve the budget I've been given to work with.”
Now, if reports are correct, it appears that what has been identified as needed – £10m – has not been forthcoming because of lack of trust between the owners and it could be in the hands of Judge Fancourt to make a recommendation which they may or may not accept.
Of course any financial pledge made to Wilder was before the sale of Brooks to Premier League Bournemouth. The manager has since confirmed he was optimistic of receiving a good proportion of the extra cash to further strengthen his first team, saying: “Kevin and the Prince understand the mechanics of football, they’ve been in it for long enough.”
This further development throws any such hopes into doubt as well as the direction of travel at Bramall Lane.