If you're a Latics fan it must be hard to process everything that has happened at the club over this past season. The Leam Richardson sacking, the Kolo Touré appointment, the return of Shaun Maloney, the points deduction and finally the relegation. However, it is everything that has happened off the pitch since the season's conclusion which has left the fans even more deflated than ever. From our digging, this is some of the information we have found out - and it sounds like shocking times for the Latics.
It was just today where Wigan Athletic were placed under a transfer embargo by the EFL due to tax issues. This comes after already being deducted 8 points as the ownership group once again failed to pay staff wages. This has now happened on 6 separate occasions. Latics will now wait to hear a decision on whether or not they will receive a further 4 point deduction, totalling a 12 point deficit to start off their 2023/24 League One campaign. It was also just three days ago where Wigan Athletic announced on social media that their ownership group had agreed in principle to a sale of the club, subject to EFL approval - but as we now know, that story has turned out to have a number of holes in it. There has apparently been a number of bids placed, some more serious than others.
Morecambe fans took to Twitter to warn off Latics fans about their new prospective buyer, 21 year old entrepreneur, Sarbjot Johal. It is known that Johal has spent a number of months trying to complete the purchase of Morecambe FC, but to no avail for a number of reasons. Sources on social media highlighted the likeliness of a Wigan Athletic takeover from Johal, pointing out his inability to provide evidence of his funds to the EFL in his bid to purchase Morecambe and overdue accounts relating to his soft drink businesses. All major red flags.
In the midst of this, there was supposedly a bid from an alleged Swiss consortium. Initially this potential bidder was celebrated, until linked with the current Wigan Athletic chairman Talal Al Hammad. According to LinkedIn, Talal is and has been associated with more than one Swiss investment firm and it was believed he may of had something to do with the apparent takeover. The displeasure from their fans coming from the way in which the club has been ran under Talal and the tainted reputation he has created within the Latics community over the past 8 months or so. Most of these are of course just rumours but the rumour mill has been running rampant once again over the past 24 hours with mentions of an alleged bid from Wigan Warriors shareholder, Michael Danson. However, with the sensitive information involved, it is still all purely speculation - which I'm sure only adds more fuel to the fire and frustration for Wigan Athletic fans who are waiting for some form of official word regarding the future of their club. On top of this, it has been rumoured over the past 48 hours Latics boss Shaun Maloney has been eyed up by Swansea City for a move. This isn't something we can imagine the fans would be happy about considering the relationship they already had with the Latics legend and the relationship they have continued to build with him as a manager. And to somehow make matters even worse than they already are, all fans, the supporters clubs, staff and even local media have had a complete blackout of any communication from the club owners on all of this.
In this scenario, you would probably consider looking to the board of directors for guidance and to ask the hard questions, but it appears as though Talal Al Hammad is the only remaining member of the Wigan Athletic board of directors. Tom Markham and Oliver Gottman, two of the remaining directors left on the board following the recent departure of Mal Brannigan, published a statement on social media Sunday night announcing their resignations. In the statement they hung a lot of the responsibility on the owners, confronting their lack of consistency with funding the club.
There has been a number of statements from Wigan over the past few months, addressing a number of issues. The club even put on a fans forum with the board of directors and manager present to iron out concerns within the fanbase, but all reassurances and promises made went awry. With all this being said, it shows and highlights how fans of clubs within the EFL continue to be punished, rather than the ownership themselves. These days if the owners have financial trouble or are just generally incompetent like we've seen many times before, it is the league table that is affected, the match day that is affected and the importance of the game that is affected. The owners are simply not punished enough. When do we see an end to this? When do we see the EFL step in and create laws that see the paying supporters benefit, rather than them having to crowd-fund, protest, pitch invade and cry out for help in fear of their club vanishing or falling into administration. These are concerning times at Wigan Athletic. If we look at similar situations like Bury, Derby, Bolton and Portsmouth to name a few, none of those clubs have been the same since or had the fortune of bouncing back from adversity the way the Tics did.
The Phoenix 2021 group who took over Wigan Athletic a few years back promptly saved the club from admin, lead them to a League One title and an EFL Trophy semi-final within first season in charge, which was widely remarked as a huge success for the ownership group. Since the end of the 2022/23 season, it feels all of the Tics fans have been searching for explanations as to what happened to the consistency within the ownership group. We understand there has been numerous factors which could of impacted the motivation behind the ownership, most notably the tragic death of the son of the Latics owner, Muhammad Al Jasmi.
No matter how you try and justify the lack of leadership, control and stability within the club over the past year, I think what is agreed is that the ownership and the fans are not meant to be - and communication right now is key. The supporters groups, fans and the local journalists including the likes of Wigan Today's Paul Kendrick should now all chime in and promote awareness for this difficult period at the club, try to find solutions and organise healthy steps to improve the current situation, if they hope for things to get better. It is also understood that as of today some Wigan Athletic staff are still currently unpaid and there has been a crowd-funder set up by Latics supporter Shaun Farrell, as Wigan fans continue to rally together and raise funds to support the club staff. If interested in donating, you can donate here. Hopefully as things progress over the next few months we see some good news for the fans. The past 3 years seems to have been quite the up and down for Latics fans.