As a lifelong fan of the club the news that Latics have gone into administration has been devastating and sickening. I am still in shock about what has happened but my immediate thoughts are follows.
On the playing front the club was in fantastic form with Paul Cook’s team having taken 27 points from a possible 39, unbeaten in nine with seven clean sheets in a row. The club had moved to 14th in the Championship table and was virtually safe from relegation.
Behind the scenes the club had changed hands only four weeks ago when the International Entertainment Corporation, a Hong Kong-based, Cayman Islands-registered company led by Stanley Choi, sold the club to Next Leader Fund in which Choi still has a 51% stake.
Worryingly under the change of ownership the Next Leader Fund loaned Latics £28.77m at an interest rate of 8%, rising to 20% if the club defaulted on payments.
The EFL’s test and takeover process involves determining that a new owner has the money to buy a club and support it financially for at least the remainder of the season and the whole of the following season.
However less than a month later and a week since the partner Au Yeung was announced as the new majority owner, the club has appointed the administrators Begbies Traynor.
It’s a murky story, why were Next Leader Fund allowed to pass the EFL’s ‘Fit and Proper’ test when they did not have the resources to run the club?
Surely the EFL should take some responsibility for their poor decision-making?
But instead they immediately issued Latics with a 12-point deduction which dumps them at the bottom of the Championship table and staring relegation starkly in the face.
The EFL have a track record of poor implementation of ‘Fit & Proper’ and several clubs have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous owners and this seems to be another example of such behaviour.
The administrators have said that they may appeal the 12-point penalty and it would seem they would have a strong case given the EFL’s negligence. If an appeal doesn’t work, then the club should have recourse to the courts.
Latics’ English board members, Chairman Darren Royle, Director Joe Royle and Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson should also take some responsibility for allowing this to happen without making their concerns known about the change in ownership and the financial penalties that were involved.
The board may say they were not in control but they are the custodians of the club and they should have made their concerns known to the EFL.
In the circumstances my immediate priorities for the administrators would be as follows:
- Stabilise the club and continue to pay the players and other staff with help from the PFA and league
- Complete this season’s fixtures and maintain the contracts of the current players, while a buyer is sought
- Appeal to the EFL against 12-point deduction and if that doesn’t work take the matter to the courts
- Approach Dave Whelan to see if he will help in the short-term with financial help
- Ensure the new owner is a ‘Fit & Proper’ person or company.
Despite the current difficulties I’m still optimistic the club can get through this and survive.
I’m sure Paul Cook, Samy Morsy and all the players will show their character and commitment at Brentford on Saturday. The rest of us should be equally committed and show our support in whatever way we can. The battle for our existence must commence now. Stay strong and believe. Up the Tics!