In limbo but not dancing

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I have tried to stay out of commenting on the ongoing ownership saga, because a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and the ongoing rumours which keep blowing up, do nobody’s health or sanity any good whatsoever. Can we call it a “saga” at this stage? Well, yes and no. Yes, because of the length of time it has dragged on, and the very public disagreements between the administrators and a certain national journalist.

Yes, because of the reaction that this provokes amongst the fans. Yes, because a football club is unlike any other business. You not only have employees and shareholders whom you are accountable to, you also have thousands of passionate “customers” demanding constant updates too. I hate describing fans as customers because they are not that. For example, if Asda were rubbish, customers would go to Tesco instead or even a different supermarket. You might be a customer of Amazon, but you don’t walk around wearing an Amazon employees replica shirt and bobble hat. You might use Google as your preferred search engine, but you don’t go around social media making fun out of Bing or Yahoo fans. Might start doing that, just for the LOL’s mind you.

It is good and bad that football fans are not passive consumers. It means that we demand constant information and refuse to accept second best. However, we are relatively powerless in modern day football, precisely because football clubs ARE multi million pound businesses, and it is impossible to have influence without money. Of course, the combined effort of fans can affect this, in normal circumstances. By boycotting support or merchandise, like they do on the continent, but it requires consensus and mobilisation, and has been proved time and time again, when you’ve got two Wigan Athletic fans in the room, you’ve often got an argument. Every fan sees it as their football club, and they want it run their way.

Yet to contradict my opening gambit: this is not a saga, when you make a parallel to any other normal business. Takeovers take time, egos are involved, different parties come and go, then there are difficult negotiations and endless scrutiny and judgement. And rightly so, where large sums of money are available. It just doesn’t happen in the public eye, and in most takeovers, even financially listed ones, there simply isn’t the clamour from their customers demanding it.

Otherwise, this is perfectly normal in a major business transaction and even for an administration. As damaging as it is, we haven’t even been in administration for half as long as many other clubs.

I have a lot of sympathy for the handful of the unpaid volunteers of the Supporter Club committee, who have also taken untold stick from the fans for their lack of disclosure. That disclosure simply can’t happen until anything is formal, even though it becomes a bit more precarious, as they are representing fans’ money. There appears to be a few fans on social media who are intent on creating a “them and us” mentality and stating they are acting in their own interests. All I’d say is that if you feel that strongly about the way they are operating, then I suggest you enquire about joining the committee and help to influence and improve YOUR Supporters’ Club, rather than continually throwing stones at them from the outside.

In summary, though, I suspect they’d have been hung out to dry if they had accepted a 4% share for the £870,000, at least without a member vote. I also believe it is the right thing to do for Miguel Garrido and backers to take the EFL test on their own in the first instance, rather than using supporter raised monies to boost their proof of funds.

I don’t know whether the Spanish group will get the go ahead or not, and like everything else this year, it has been completely out of the fans hands. We are at the mercy of the EFL once more. So, as it is out of our control, we are probably best to consider the decision from a win-win perspective, rather than lose-lose.

The clear win, if it gets approved, is that we will be out of administration within the next few days, and can start to strengthen the squad to get us back up the table. We can also get some form of season tickets on sale and start to become a normal football club again, in these very not-normal times.

If it fails, then let us assume that there are significant concerns to suggest that this group would not be proper custodians for our football club and we are therefore, better off without them. There is also a high degree of confidence that there are other potential owners waiting in the wings to take over if so. And I don’t mean the late arrivals of the Double R Mafia. Don’t get me wrong, I always found Darren Royle very decent, but once bitten, twice shy and all that.

Of course, the major issue here is that we would have to go back to an earlier stage in the process and it may be another month before we get another owner. It would be a very precarious state to be in, but a bit more short term pain would ideally be offset by a more, stable long term future. All the real action to rebuild the club is going to take place in January this season, and until then, we are going to be languishing somewhat, regardless of who the owner is. And I think most reasonable fans accept that and are actually enjoying watching our young players find their feet, whilst accepting of their growing pains on the field.

In some senses, it might be depressing to be bottom of the league. Yet, the performances give us hope as each week this team is improving and getting closer to turning defeats into draws and then ideally victories. The real story of the season could be the emergence of a young crop of footballers. Kids who are proud to wear the shirt and are playing every bit of a part in the history and future of Wigan Athletic, as the many, much more established names that went before them.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on 6th November 2020

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