With the 2023/24 campaign kicking off in less than a month it’s fair to say it hasn’t been a great preseason for Barnsley. After missing out on promotion in the 123rd minute of the League One playoff final to local rivals Sheffield Wednesday they have lost their manager Michael Duff, their star man and captain Mads Juel Andersen, and now they’ve been hit with several EFL charges.
As of now it doesn't seem like the club are at risk of immediate punishment. The club statement confirms ‘the club has fully cooperated with the investigation at every stage and will continue to do so, as appropriate’ and there hasn’t been any suggestion of penalties against the club itself. Paul Conway and Chien Lee, two former directors, have been charged though.
Now the timeline of events is difficult to piece together. Conway and Lee both left their roles at the club in May 2022 so we can assume the charges relate to breaches made before that period. It is unclear whether the pair of them left the club as a result of internal concern at their potential rule breaking, or if it was a simple case of moving on following the Tyke’s relegation.
Keep in mind that Barnsley’s charges include ‘failing to provide the League with correct and/or complete information regarding the beneficial ownership of shares in the Club’, ‘failing to provide the League with the necessary notifications regarding the ownership position at the Club’, and ‘failing to publish accurate information on the Club’s website concerning the ultimate owners of the Significant Interest in the Club.’ These all suggest some serious issues behind the scenes.
Each charge, with exception of the fifth and final one accusing them of ‘failing to act towards the league in good faith’ is related to murky dealings of the ownership group. It suggests that they were bringing people in to run the club who may not have been allowed to do so, or at the very least hadn’t been given official EFL clearance.
Remember, not too long ago a similar situation to this happened at Wigan Athletic where an unknown man took over the Latics and plunged them into administration almost immediately. Whilst thankfully for Barnsley this hasn’t been the case it does highlight the worrying level of secrecy ownership groups go to to cover their tracks. Whether they meant anything sinister by these actions is unknown, but it isn’t a good look for a club that prides itself on sticking strictly to the rulebook.
So, what does it mean for Barnsley? Right now, we’re not sure. You’d have to assume points deductions and fines are a possibility but equally this could all disappear if the EFL are provided with the information they require. For now, it’s a story to keep an eye on, and hopefully it doesn’t get any more worrying for the Tykes.