Friday, September 29, 2023

Wolves chairman allays fears over the club’s long-term stability

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Bernard Ford
A Leicester City fan. Wants respect from the 'London based' media for clubs outside the bubble.

Wolves chair Jeff Shi has published an open letter to fans of the Gold and Blacks fearing for their club’s long-term future.

Supporters have grown increasingly concerned Wanderers’ Chinese owners, Fosun, are losing interest in their Premier League asset. However, Shi has gone public to reassure fans that their ownership remains a “long-term project” and an “important one for Fosun”.

FFP continues to bite for Wanderers

Wolverhampton Wanderers have been owned by Fosun International since 2016 and the Chinese group has overseen a boom era for the club, firmly establishing them as a top-flight club and bringing European football back to Molineux.

However, the club has been on something of a downward slide in the last couple of seasons. Only a late rally last season saw Wolves finish clear of relegation in 13th place. Shi admits Financial Fair Play (FFP) is forcing Wanderers to close this summer with a net profit on player trading, which has seen them bid farewell to stalwarts Ruben Neves and Raul Jimenez. In doing so, the latest English Premier League betting odds have Wolves priced as 3/1 fifth favourites for the drop in 2023/24, with newly promoted duo Luton and Sheffield United odds-on for an immediate return to the EFL Championship.

With the club hamstrung to avoid losses exceeding its accumulated £105 million three-year loss, the purse strings are noticeably tighter for boss, Julen Lopetegui, this summer. Only Republic of Ireland international right-back Matt Doherty has agreed to sign on in the close season on a free transfer. Replacing long-serving captain Neves and talismanic goalscorer Jimenez would be top of Lopetegui’s priority list, but it’s possible they’ll have to wait 12 months to afford to do so.

Shi cites unexpectedly busy January 2023 transfer window as cause for a quiet summer

Shi tackled the issue of a lack of new faces for the squad this summer by admitting the club’s unusually busy transfer window in January has given them little room for manoeuvre this summer. Shi said the six new faces in the winter window “advanced the investment room originally left for this summer”. However, Shi insisted if the club can manage their FFP compliance well this summer, they’ll be in good shape to be “more free financially” this time next year.

It promises to be a difficult start to the 2023/24 Premier League campaign for Wolves, with a daunting trip to Old Trafford to face Erik ten Hag’s new-look Manchester United. The Red Devils have invested again across most areas of their squad and will be keen to go further in challenging for domestic honours this term.

Wanderers’ opening home league game at Molineux is against Roberto de Zerbi’s fast-improving Brighton, followed by tricky tests away to Everton and Crystal Palace. It’s not until match week six that Wolves have a game where they’re likely to be pre-match favourites, when they travel to newly promoted Luton Town on September 23rd.

The fear for Wolves’ hierarchy and their loyal supporters is that they fall the same way as Leicester City. The Foxes were also hamstrung by FFP conditions last summer, leaving Brendan Rodgers’ hands largely tied during the close season. As a result, Leicester struggled for most of the campaign, resulting in a disappointing relegation to the second tier. The EFL trapdoor will open fast for Wolves this term if they don’t get off to a flier.

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