The strange world of Wigan Athletic

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Where to start?

In the strange world of Wigan Athletic this has to be one of the strangest weeks yet. Despite there being no action on the pitch there’s been plenty of drama off it.

Honestly where to start? I’ll try in the short space I have but any sort of summary could stretch to the size of a decent paper back spy thriller.

With no definitive decision on our prospective Spanish owners the Wigan Athletic rumour mill has been churning at an un-told rate of knots. This is natural, a takeover deal where we were told there were no problems envisaged and that it would be completed in 2-3 weeks is currently heading in to its eighth week and rather than the administrators being out by the end of October as stated by Gerald Krasner we’re looking at still being in administration at Christmas.

A situation that was wholly unimaginable back in the summer. So what could possibly be holding up the takeover by our prospective Spanish owners? Well there’s been plenty of speculation but no concrete information.

This speculation involves potential salary cuts and redundancies, unworkable business plans, potential issues surrounding the lease of the DW Stadium and as a result the rent due to the new owners from Wigan Warriors. Without seeing the business plans it’s very difficult to form any real opinion.

All we have to go on is Jose Miguel Garrido Cristo and his interview with Paul Kendrick in the Wigan Observer last week, and if we take Jose by his word it sounds a very sensible approach to our future.

But of course they are only words and something has been flagged up by the EFL checks, whether that is surrounding the business plan or something else we’re not yet privy to. In this void created by a lack of a firm decision by the EFL first came the rumours of a potential return for Darren Royle with backing from former Manchester City and Newcastle defender Ray Ranson.

A Ray Ranson incidentally born and raised up the East Lancs in St Helens. Those rumours are now seemingly accepted as fact that if this bid fails the administrators will look to progress with Darren Royle and Ray Ranson.

Ranson is a successful British businessman and has fronted numerous consortia that have missed out on purchasing the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa and Spurs in recent years. Despite what happened in the summer this bid sounds like it could have some merit to it and indeed it’s two people who know the club inside out and the local area.

How welcome Darren Royle would be at the DW Stadium following what happened with Au Yeung and Choi I’m not sure but frankly compared to the alternative (of being wound up) I’d take him every day of the week – with a heavy dose of sceptisim.

There were said to be three or four bidders pouring over the books before the Spanish were granted exclusivity and we received a bit more information on that front this past weekend, and when I say a bit more I mean a lot more.

In the world of Social Media half-truths and anecdotal evidence can often take on a life of its own and before you know it the rumour becomes fact. For the last few weeks certain Latics fans on twitter had referenced a locally backed bid that would blow the Spanish out of the water.

The sort of locally backed bid that if made in the Summer could have stopped a whole lot of heartache and worry.

This without any firm proof was of course dismissed by the majority but over the weekend it transpired that there was some truth to the rumours. Though the story behind it and the players in this mysterious bid would leave Sherlock scratching his head.

A man called Tony Frampton appeared on twitter over the weekend, with a username called ‘Saviour 696’, he confirmed a number of stories and rumours that was later confirmed (again on twitter) by Wigan Athletic administrator Paul Stanley.

A number of Latics fans had been contacted by a UK based intermediary of the aforementioned Tony Frampton to raise awareness of his bid so hence the rumours that had been doing the rounds for a couple of weeks before the wider fanbase knew anything about it.

So who is this Tony Frampton you may ask? Well he’s a Hong Kong based ex-pat from Wigan, who emigrated in the early 90’s. He’s a director of a commodities trading and logistics company, fronted by one Alistair Sean Jeffries. Following so far? Well it seems that Mr Jeffries had been interested in purchasing Sunderland but walked away from that deal earlier this year and turned his attentions towards Wigan Athletic thanks to Frampton.

The Wigan Post covered the offer that would apparently see a large body of investment not just in Wigan Athletic but the town of Wigan itself with new hospitals and schools listed alongside the wish list that every Wiganer could imagine.  As good as it all sounds I’m sceptical, for one the Spanish bid is still favourite as it has been lodged with the EFL with a substantial deposit placed on the club with Begbies.

But the offer from Frampton/Jeffries (if an official offer has been lodged) may sound too good to be true. There’s also the fact that we had never heard from Frampton or Jeffries prior to the last couple of weeks, so where have they been over the last few months as his home town club suffers? Not to mention why are his loyalties clearly to Chelsea and Wigan Warriors (if his social media profile is anything to go by)

It’s yet another twist in a never ending road full of twists. We’re now at the mercy of the EFL, we either progress with the bid from Jose Miguel Garrido Cristo and his group or we don’t. The Spanish group’s exclusivity period was extended to Friday the 20th November last week and it surely can’t be extended again.

If no firm decision if forthcoming from the EFL then the administrators simply need to move on to the next interested party. The club simply can’t last much longer in this state.

Be that next party Royle and Ranson or these mysterious Wigan/Hong Kong mega bidders they simply need to get new ownership in to Wigan Athletic. For every week that passes we’re simply suffering more than you could ever imagine.

At least we’ve a return to action to look forward to on Saturday. I hold no ill feeling to John Sheridan, a man doing a difficult job blind folded but I do wonder how much of a connection he had with his players, especially after how he reacted during extra time against Chorley and how he threw young players under the bus.

I’ll be interested to see how we react with Leam Richardson and Gregor Rioch back in charge on Saturday against Oxford – with any luck it’ll be a positive reaction.

Remember whatever happens in the next few weeks, it’s never boring.


Sean Livesey

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