EFL’s fit and proper tested: The miserable financial road for Wigan and its peers

By Andrew Warshaw

July 7 – Wigan Athletic’s official supporters’ club have demanded a “full investigation” into how the second-tier Championship club became the first professional outfit in English football to be plunged into administration during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a shameful tale of injustice and outrage that has shocked neutral fans across the country, Wigan, who spent eight seasons in the top flight up to 2013, entered bankruptcy protection last week due to lack of funding from the Hong Kong-based consortium that took them over just a month ago.

Serious questions over the entire ownership model of English football have been raised after the club, who won the FA cup only seven years ago, were sold from one Hong Kong company to another and are now fighting for survival amid calls for a complete revision  of ownership rules.

Once their automatic 12-point penalty is applied Wigan will drop to the bottom of the division and almost certain relegation.

The club’s local MP as well as Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, have both written to the English Football League calling for an inquiry and now the Wigan Athletic Supporters Club is stepping up the pressure.

“We are writing to the EFL to request that they make a formal statement acknowledging that a full investigation into the events surrounding Wigan Athletic being placed into administration is required before they consider whether the sanction placed on our football club may need to be reviewed,” said WASC.

“More importantly, we request that you then commit to a full review of the EFL ‘Owners and Directors Test’ to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

“The details of this case are subject to widespread sharing of facts and rumours alike and we are not here to go into the details.

“However, we are absolutely clear that our motives in writing this letter are to ensure that this is never allowed to happen again to another EFL club and to ensure the survival of Wigan Athletic Football Club.

“Whilst our situation was not caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we now find ourselves unable to secure income from gate receipts due to the pandemic restrictions which is exacerbating our financial issues. We would therefore appeal to the EFL to utilise its covid impact funding to support Wigan Athletic Football Club in this case.”

How and why Wigan find themselves in such a perilous state makes for interesting reading. Two years ago they were sold by long-time owner and passionate fan Dave Whelan to International Entertainment Corporation, a Hong Kong listed, Cayman Islands-registered business that partly specialises in gambling and is owned by professional poker player Stanley Choi.

Then, last month, it changed hands again – shortly before falling into administration – after being transferred  to another Hong Kong business group, Next Leader Fund (NLF). Interestingly Choi was apparently also a majority shareholder of Next Leader Fund until recently.

Reports suggest that within just weeks of acquisition, NLF chief Au Yeung Wai Kay approached administrators after failing to provide a promised £6 million to pay bills.

The north-west England town’s local MP, Lisa Nandy, who is also Britain’s shadow Foreign Secretary, described the collapse of Wigan as  a “global scandal” that should force the English Football League to tighten ownership rules.

“How could the ownership change have been approved? This should never happen again. The rules need to change,” Nandy fumed.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1596496517labto1596496517ofdlr1596496517owedi1596496517sni@w1596496517ahsra1596496517w.wer1596496517dna1596496517