Wigan Athletic frozen out at college

Dave Whelan has slammed college bosses after they refused to let Wigan Athletic train on a pitch he helped to pay for.

Steve Bruce and his men were desperate for alternative facilities after the recent cold snap meant their regular Christopher Park practice ground was frozen solid and unusable.

Latics general manager John Benson remembered that St John Rigby College at Orrell had an all-weather pitch – on which the club's Centre of Excellence players had trained on the night before – and so contacted reception.

After waiting half an hour for someone in authority to come out of a

meeting, he was informed by the receptionist that the pitch was closed.

Fortunately for Latics, Leigh Sports Village, which also has an artificial surface, agreed at short notice to accommodate the team instead and the session went ahead as planned.

Latics say that no-one else was using the pitch and that Mr Benson explained to the receptionist that the team would only need it for an hour or so and could fit in morning or afternoon to whatever suited the college best, but the answer was still a flat "no."

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan today said he was "very disappointed," not only because he had pumped 400,000 into the development of the pitch and its changing facilities several years ago, but also because the college was prepared to pass up the prestige of having a top club training on its premises.

He said: "I'm very sad about this. We were asking the school to help facilitate the professional team and they refused.

"I can't imagine why they could not have accommodated us for an hour and would be interested to know what the principal has to say about it.

"The school has some of the best sporting facilities anywhere, part of which were provided by me and yet they could not help us out at all. It's not as if anyone else was using it or a huge amount of effort has to be made to open it up for use.

"I provided the cash for these facilities and this was Wigan Athletic of the Premier League. For the college to have them there, even for an hour, would have been fantastic for them."

A spokesman for the college declined to comment, saying that Mr Whelan would be contacted directly about the issue.

Mr Whelan agreed to pay for the improved sporting facilities at St John Rigby College to compensate for the sale of Orrell Rugby Union Club's training pitch to housing developers.