The Financial Alarm Bells Are Ringing

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Are they? Are they really? I don’t really see what the fuss is about elsewhere, it’s not telling us anything that those of us who bothered to look didn’t know: Basically Dave Whelan is Wigan Athletic and Wigan Athletic is Dave Whelan.

Sorry if that offends a few given the mantra that we all like to repeat, namely that there was a Wigan Athletic before Dave Whelan and there will be one afterwards.

Hopefully this is true but nevertheless, there would have to be a big re-balancing act if and when he goes, probably back to a level that we were at before he arrived.

His loaned money has elevated us to a level which most Wigan Athletic fans could never dream of, unfortunately he did it several years too late when the money got obscene. If the £100m quote is true then what bought Jack Walker the league in the early nineties, merely pays the wage bill and covers the losses for a few years nowadays.

But if it takes a few sensationalised headlines to shock a few of our fans into seeing the bigger picture, then I’m all for it.

Watching Wigan Athletic for me is about exactly that, it matters not whether we are in the Premier League or in the Unibond Premier League, what matter is that we have a Wigan Athletic to watch.

So what are all these headlines about then regarding the club’s finances?

What they are about is nothing more than a storm in a teacup and several periodicals taking a little note out of the appendix to the main accounts and writing a big story around it.

Maybe the press are just going to town on us a little because it’s another stick to beat us with and they like getting a big stick and firmly banging Wigan Athletic on the head with it.

However, the less sensational headline from the Mudhutter is as follows: This exact same note or at least a very similar one has also been included in the last three sets of accounts, essentially that the football club relies on the continual backing of Dave Whelan for it’s existence.

Since I’ve been doing the financial pieces about the club I have generally told it how it is with Whelan. I have probably shifted my and a few others’ views about him in the process once I started digging.

He definitely isn’t the sugar daddy he portrayed himself to be in the early days. Nor is there such thing as a war chest. And yes he’s had plenty of free advertising and publicity over the years for DW & JJB Sports and of course for himself, Dave Whelan the man, who played in an FA Cup Final and broke his leg.

But neither has he much wiggle room in the WAFC accounts to pull money out for his own means, as has often been suggested and Wigan Athletic only exist today because of the ‘debts’ as he calls them owed to him (interest free mind). Not only that but the overdraft and loans attached to the club have only not been called in a lot earlier because they are secured on Whelan’s other businesses.

It has been well documented that Dave Whelan has converted £48m of this debt into equity which effectively removes the debt Wigan Athletic owes to him and leaves him with an investment which on the face of it is worth very little.

Of course Whelan could also pay off the other debts as well – the loans, the overdraft and leave us with no

debt at all, that would be the ultimate act of a benefactor cum sugar daddy. Wouldn’t that be great!

However even if that were to happen, that is not the point the auditors are making. The point the auditors are making is that it doesn’t matter where the money is coming from: our operating costs are way above our revenue and without this funding and security against borrowed money from Barclays, we wouldn’t be able to continue in the manner we are. We would be left with a £16m gap between what we spend and what we earn and show me a bank manager who’s going to write you a cheque to cover that every year?

They are saying that Barclays wouldn’t take the same view as Whelan, and would not continue to lend the football club money if there was not a credible plan for them to get it back. Damn those blasted bankers eh – they actually want their money back at some point! Probably with a bit of interest. So that’s why they get such big bonuses!!

Show me any mad and more importantly rich foreigner who would want to pump £16m of his or her own cash in year after year, and that’s just to stay where we are let alone kick on to the next level.

Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that owning our own stadium which to my knowledge still hasn’t happened might help when it comes to securing borrowing….

Don’t let me scare you anyway as others have had. I’ve tried to report the financial status of the club to anyone who’s been prepared to listen in somewhat erratic chunks over the past year or two, so what has been reported should come as no surprise.

When those of you sad enough to do so read the notes to the accounts in full you will notice that there is another note which states that cash flow forecasts have been submitted to Barclays for the 18 month period until May 2012 and these have been accepted by our bankers.

You would naturally assume that this covers the alternative scenarios of us getting relegated or staying up, factoring parachute payments and a drastically reduced wage bill and there are several versions costed up accordingly. This may mean some harrowing sales of players and chopping of the wage bill but personally I want Wigan Athletic to be alive in 2012, in 2032 and in 2052 moreso than retaining any particular player.

The cash flow note should hopefully appease those who are concerned about us going bust at least not for the next two years and again underline that we are just reliant on one man to keep us alive. Yes just like Bolton, Stoke, Sunderland, Aston Villa and so on.

And here comes the preaching bit…the difference with the above is that they have a solid fanbase who will galvanise behind their club in numbers in times of trouble – just like Pompey fans did in their own time of despair.

Those of you who know me, know that I’m a quiet unassuming gent who became a fanzine editor because no-one could be arsed doing it, has written two books about Wigan Athletic and likes writing about football. I’m also an accountant for my sins. I’m not a great accountant and I’m not a great football fan. My family comes first now to be honest.

I seem to have picked up a few enemies en route purely for speaking my mind. Yes I rant and rave and done things I might not have been proud of over the years and people may not share my opinion and call me names back. I’m sorry if I offended you.

As I said at the outset, if these recent headlines wake a few people up who usually see nothing other than the ninety minutes football a week they like to moan about then it’s a job well done. We have a football club at the minute and we’d like to keep it that way.

I’m no leader nor am I on personal crusade just voicing an opinion about something I feel strongly about. But whether you want Bob’s balls on a plate or you still think he’s the man to lead us into Europe in five years’ time, it matters not.

A club with united fans will never be defeated. Drop your weapons, or at least stop pointing them at each other and the team and let’s work together. There’s a vehicle which has been started up over the last 12 months’ or so designed to fit us all on. The next few months are going to be huge for all Wigan Athletic fans and we might need each other soon. In the meantime DON’T PANIC

I’ll do some financial breakdowns of the numbers in the coming weeks of the latest numbers – if people are interested – however the company I work for is being audited itself at the minute which is proving a tad time consuming

There is nothing surprising in the 2009/10 accounts though, and in so

me cases it is good news as the gap between income and expenditure is narrowing. I’ll not get started on the underlying business of player transfers except to say I’d be surprised if Charles N’Zogbia is still here on June 1st….

However, in the meantime, if you want to read some headline numbers, click here

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