The takeover of Wigan Athletic by the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) should be completed tomorrow at the Extraordinary General Meeting (Friday 2nd November).
The change in ownership from Dave Whelan to IEC means the end of an era for the club. During the last 23 years Whelan’s time in charge of Latics has been truly remarkable. Whelan has completely transformed the club during his tenure.
When he took over in 1995 Latics were struggling in the bottom division on attendances of less than 2,000 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 for eight years, reach a League Cup Final, win an FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa League is an almost unbelievable achievement.
When Whelan said 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 ownership they have done these extraordinary things. Whelan’s investment in Wigan should also be recognised for the huge social and economic benefits it has brought to the town.
The £30m DW Stadium development and associated sporting facilities have been a tremendous boost for the local community.
Raising the town’s profile in front of a global TV audience can only have had positive benefits for the area, which has otherwise suffered considerable economic adversity.
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 some difficult decisions when required.
He has, of course, made mistakes. He fatefully appointed Malky Mackay as manager who was at the centre of an FA investigation while at Cardiff and the media storm followed him to Wigan. But his mistakes are far outweighed by his successes and the club is now light years away from when he took over.
In the last few years the club has been steered by Whelan’s grandson David Sharpe who is a Latics fan through and through. It has generally been a successful period with two promotions from League One and the one relegation from the Championship.
The club has been sold by the Whelan family in a strong position. It is financially solvent and making very good progress in the Championship under Paul Cook’s leadership. The hope now is that the new owners can bring continued success.
They have said that there will be continuity for many of the key staff who have been running the club, including the manager and his coaching staff, Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson and many of the other long standing employees.
Experienced football professionals Joe Royle and his son Darren Royle will be on the new board and they will hopefully be good custodians for the club going forward.
But whatever happens in the future, Dave Whelan’s achievements should be appreciated and celebrated as one of the greatest football stories. Whelan has done so much for the club and the town during his time in charge, everyone should be very grateful for an amazing 23 years.
His success as the businessman who created JJB Sports and subsequently DW Sports was renowned but his achievements at Wigan Athletic will be his enduring legacy.
Latics take on second-placed Leeds United in the lunchtime kick-off on Sunday and I’m hoping the club will have arranged a fitting tribute to Dave Whelan either at the game or in the near future; he certainly deserves one.