After possibly the longest takeover saga in history, light is at the end of the tunnel for Wigan Athletic and the club’s ownership structure. Rumours first emerged last October that Wigan Athletic could possibly be heading for a takeover, with numerous far eastern groups linked to taking control of the club. After Garry Cook had been appointed as a director to explore the possibilities of a sale it was only a matter of time.
It seems that it’s been going on forever now and with various missed deadlines and very little leaking to the press Latics fans could be forgiven for wondering if anything was indeed going to happen.
Clarity finally came in the form of a 126 page circular released by the International Entertainment Corporation on the 9th October. In it there were finally some flesh to the bones, with details of the make-up of ‘some’ of the new members of the board and IEC’s plans to generate revenue. Ratification of the deal was made by the EFL in the summer and with IEC recommending that the deal goes ahead we are now seemingly only waiting for IEC’s shareholders to agree the deal.
So we are coming in to the final few weeks of the Whelan family’s ownership of Wigan Athletic. After 23 years in charge the club has grown and developed beyond all recognition from that of the one that Dave Whelan took over in 1995. Football itself has changed beyond all recognition too and where Dave Whelan was once a very rich man, in football terms his finances can’t compete with the rest of the Championship let alone the money swirling around the Premier League.
After 23 years, most of which followed an upward trajectory it’s going to be a sad day when our owner isn’t the local man done good and we become another club with an unknown ownership structure and all of the worries that go with it. The one thing Dave Whelan represent is stability, his departure as chairman opened the way for David Sharpe an impressive young man who has brought the club closer to its supporters and really impressed with his attitude to both the club and the people who follow it.
Of course it hasn’t always been plain sailing under Dave Whelan, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. He achieved what he set out to achieve when he took over the club in 1995 and even more than that. From the Premier League to the FA Cup to Europe to numerous honours and league titles. They can all be traced back to Dave Whelan and he deserves the gratitude of Wiganer’s the world over.
Back to our prospective new owners and interesting information was confirmed with some members of our new board of directors revealed. As had been mooted in the press Joe Royle and his son Darren would be joining as directors, with Jonathan Jackson also retaining his position as Chief Executive. Less surprisingly the circular also mentioned that Paul Cook would be remaining as manager – which I’m sure we can all agree is good news.
The Royle’s connection to the deal is a bit more left field but anyone who sits in the West stand will know that father and son have been regular fixtures at Latics games over the last fourteen months. Joe Royle is a Latics foe but one with a multitude of experience and respect in football in the North West, whilst his son is a football analyst and agent with connections to Everton. It may be foolish but their presence on the board makes me feel a little more confident, I’m not sure the Royle family would want their reputation tainted by a dodgy deal.
IEC also laid out their plans for the development of the football club in Tuesday’s circular and there were some interesting ideas. Sharpey’s chippy would become somewhere for fans to meet before the match, whilst hospitality areas would be invested in to raise further revenue. On the pitch the club would be looking to invest in the academy to ensure it reached level two status and to follow a model similar to that of Southampton and Brentford. Which again on the face of it seems a wise position to have.
But as with everything in the takeover we won’t be able to fully judge until the deal is completed and we meet the new owners and see how they actually plan to put their ideas in to place. It’s going to be a nervous time full of change but possibly an exciting one too. All I ask is that the club is kept solvent and that the supporters are paid respect and hopefully the same respect will be paid to our new owners from Latics fans.
First published in the Wigan Post, Friday 12th October 2018
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