Dave Whelan may be renowned for his ‘rent-a-quote’ approach to media relations, but his contribution to Wigan Athletic has been nothing less than incredible. When Whelan took over in 1995 Wigan they were struggling in the bottom division and few could have expected that the club would have such a meteoric rise. To climb through the divisions and to establish themselves in the Premier League, reach a League Cup Final, FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa Cup is an almost unbelievable achievement.
When Whelan said he would he would take the club into the Premier League many people mocked. When he said he would like to see the Latics play in the FA Cup Final many people said it was an impossible dream. But during Whelan’s chairmanship Wigan have done these extraordinary things.
Whelan’s investment in Wigan should also be recognised for the social and economic benefits it brings. The DW Stadium development and associated sporting facilities are a huge bonus for the local community. Raising the town’s profile in front of a global TV audience can only have positive benefits.
Whelan’s leadership of the club has been steadfast and unswerving, he has given his financial backing to his managers but he has also been prepared to take the difficult decisions when required.
Since he took over he has bankrolled the club, but he has now paved the way for his retirement by restructuring the finances of the club.
Wigan have moved to a situation where they can manage without Whelan’s backing. The club reported a net profit of £4.3 million in 2011/12. Turnover increased, salary and administrative costs were down, which is quite an achievement in the high stakes Premier League.
The club now stands to share in the new £3 billion TV deal and even if the worst happened and they were relegated, the parachute payments should give them a good chance of a quick return.
They have a respectable average attendance of 19,000 and will be taking 25,000 fans to the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
The club has a sustainable future, it is well-managed and forward-looking. The Whelan family and Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson are likely to continue in control following Dave’s retirement. The club has identified that the youth development is crucial to the club’s future success and new training facilities at Wrightington are in the pipeline.
Roberto Martinez has worked closely with the Chairman to develop strong football foundations and this can only stand the club in good stead in the long-term.
Chairman Dave’s achievements should be fully recognised and celebrated. His legacy will be an incredible football success story, but he has also paved the way for an even brighter future to come.