By Andrew Warshaw
July 2 – In a move that has shocked neutral fans across the country, Wigan Athletic of the second-tier Championship have become the first professional English club to fall into administration as a result of Covid-19.
Winners of the FA Cup only seven years ago, the club have entered bankruptcy protection due to the financial impact of the pandemic and lack of funding from the Hong Kong-based consortium that took them over a month ago.
The northwest English club, based in a town better known for rugby league and who for years have defied a relatively small fan base by punching above their weight, now face a hugely uncertain future, with a possible 12-point deduction on the cards that may not be enough to save their Championship status with just six games remaining of the season.
“From what we can see, the change of ownership just decided they didn’t want to fund it any more,” said Paul Stanley, one of the administrators from business recovery company, Begbies Traynor.
“Our immediate objectives are to ensure the club completes all its fixtures this season and to urgently find interested parties to save Wigan Athletic FC and the jobs of the people who work for the club. Obviously the suspension of the Championship season due to COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the recent fortunes of the club.
“Wigan Athletic has been a focal point and source of pride for the town since 1932 and anyone who is interested in buying this historic sporting institution should contact the joint administrators directly.”
Wigan spent a remarkable eight seasons in the Premier League before they were relegated in 2013 – the same year they upset Manchester City in the FA Cup final – and then dropped down into third-tier League One in 2015 before making an immediate return to the Championship where they currently lie in 14th place.
The club reported losses of £9.2m million last year and was sold by local businessman Dave Whelan, for years its public face, to the Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) in November 2018. There was another change of ownership in the last month when IEC sold to Next Leader Fund, another Hong Kong-based group.
Expressing shock at the news, Whelan said he would “see if I can help in any way, shape or form”, while joint administrator Gerald Krasner said they had been inundated with expressions of interest from potential investors but would need to move quickly to rescue the club.
“There are two objectives – firstly to make sure we get to the end of the season, otherwise the club is finished, then to find a buyer,” he said.
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