This week’s news was dominated by off the field matters – the announcement of the likely takeover of Latics by a Far East sports betting firm K8. It was something of a surprise to most fans even though it has been known for some time that owner Dave Whelan was looking for a buyer for the club and Latics Director and former Manchester City Chief Executive Garry Cook had been brought in to broker such a deal.
A process of due diligence is currently being undertaken by the English Football League (EFL) as they will have to assess if the online gambling and casinos firm are a ‘fit and proper owner’ for Latics.
The EFL has been reappraising its owners’ and directors’ test after a catalogue of disastrous financial and administrative problems at clubs throughout the divisions.
Leyton Orient, Leeds United, Coventry City, Nottingham Forest, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers have all recently suffered at the hands of dubious owners.
The EFL says it has responded and the terms upon which individuals are considered fit and proper to take ownership of a club are being reviewed.
However whether a fit and proper test can prevent the catalogue of bad club owners that have afflicted football remains to be seen.
Whelan has a reputation for driving a hard bargain so it will be interesting to see what the exact deal entails. He may want certain assurances before selling up.
He might, for example, want to retain a shareholding in the club and require the involvement of his grandson David Sharpe on the board as well as Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson.
There are question marks about who will own the Stadium and issues about Wigan Rugby’s tenancy and Whelan is expected to want safeguards about the future running of the club.
There may be similarities about the agreement with the recent takeover at Portsmouth, where former Walt Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner took control.
Eisner pledged to form a heritage board, which would protect the club’s name, colours, and badge and prevent any relocation to a ground more than 15 miles from the city centre.
The K8 investors have big ambitions, are promising to invest heavily and are aiming to get the club back into the Premier League.
Whether they can commit the resources to do that however remains to be seen. Particularly as the sums invested by, for example, Championship clubs are very significant indeed.
The fans seem fairly divided about whether the takeover is for the long term good of the club. Certainly any agreement with K8 should build in safeguards so the club preserves its heritage and identity.
There are clearly risks involved in taking on new backers, but ultimately the club will require new investment if it is to be successful.
Many fans have experienced the Premier League, Europa Cup and FA Cup and are excited at the prospect of new investment and the possibility of new successes.
It was inevitable that the Whelan era would come to an end at some point and we can only hope that the new era will prove to be equally successful.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 20th October 2017.