Who’s Next? As Mystery Surrounds Wigan’s Financial Collapse English Football

The Shadow Foreign Secretary and the Mayor of Greater Manchester have both called for an investigation into the collapse of Wigan Athletic, who went into administration last week.

Lisa Nandy, who is also the Labour MP for Wigan, joined Andy Burnham – a former Cabinet minister under Gordon Brown – in demanding the government and the football authorities answer “serious questions” about the way the club was run.

​In a joint letter to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nandy and Burnham wrote: “This shocking turn of events has left the public of Wigan bewildered and their fate of their football club hanging in the balance.”

Wigan Athletic – traditionally a small club from a town which was better known as a rugby league stronghold – enjoyed a decade of success under chairman Dave Whelan, a multi-millionaire retail tycoon and boyhood fan of the club.

​Whelan invested millions in the team and got them promoted to the Premier League in 2005.

They were relegated in 2013 and Whelan’s grandson David Sharpe sold the club to a shadowy Hong Kong-based company, the International Entertainment Corporation, five years later.

In May IEC agreed to sell the club on to another Hong Kong-based shell company, Next Leader Fund, and the English Football League approved them as “fit and proper persons” only days before the club entered into administration.

​Under the league’s rules Wigan face a 12-point penalty, which would almost certainly lead to their relegation from English football’s second tier.

On Friday, 3 July, a secretly recorded video clip appeared on social media in which EFL chairman Rick Parry can be heard discussing a rumour that one of the club’s owners had made a bet in the Philippines on Wigan being relegated.

The Wigan debacle has once again cast doubt on the UK football authorities’ ability to stop clubs falling into the hands of owners with questionable business plans.

Last year Bury FC – who are based in a suburb of Manchester only a few miles from Wigan – went out of existence altogether after their owner Steve Dale failed to come up with the money to save them.

So which club’s fans are worried about them going the same way as Wigan or Bury ?

Charlton Athletic

London club Charlton Athletic were in the Premier League from 2000 to 2007 but have struggled in the last 10 years and are currently towards the bottom of the second tier of English football.

In 2014 the club were taken over by Roland Duchatelet, a Belgian electronics tycoon who also owned another famous name in football – Standard Liège.

​But Duchatelet soon became a hate figure for Charlton fans, who believed he was deliberately running them into the ground.

In January this year Duchatelet finally agreed to sell the club but he retained ownership of the stadium and the training ground and it recently emerged that the club owe him £50 million.

Standard Liège – who were sold by Duchatelet in 2015 – had their…

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