Wigan Athletic takeover: ‘Premier League is the aim for IEC’!

IEC CEO Melvin Yan Min Zhang
IEC CEO Melvin Yan Min Zhang

“Our aim, objective, is to get Wigan Athletic to the Premier League - as soon as possible!”

So say International Entertainment Corporation, outlining their vision after confirming the purchase of the club from the Whelan family.

Melvin Yan Min Zhang, CEO of IEC, says ‘funds will be available’ to achieve that, but says the long-term plan is to ‘develop the club’ rather than ‘throw money at it’.

Zhang also confirmed IEC had been looking into buying an English club for a couple of years, before deciding Latics were the perfect fit.

“Before we contacted Wigan, we visited quite a few clubs,” Zhang said.

“We have been exploring opportunities in football clubs in England for a year or two.

“Through a common friend, we were introduced to Wigan Athletic, and we fell in love with how Mr Dave Whelan took the club from the bottom level to the Premier League.

“That shows a good operation and good performance, and we were also attracted by the friendly people involved.”

Darren Royle will take over as executive chairman, with his dad Joe - the former England striker - being appointed the board of directors.

Zhang also confirmed the existing structure at the club will remain in place, which will end any speculation over the future of manager Paul Cook and his staff.

“We believe the root of football is in England, and as a group from Asia we will look to enhance that local experience,” Zhang said.

“We will not be making drastic changes to the operation or the management structure of the club.

“The reason we have engaged Joe and Darren is to co-operate with the existing management personnel by using their profile, experience and understanding of English football.

“Entertainment is the principle of our business, and we look into different entertainment activities.

“At the moment our major business is in real estate and resorts, but acquiring Wigan Athletic Football Club is one of our main activities.

“We believe football has been getting more and more popular in Asia, mainly in China and in Hong Kong.

“Believe it or not, we have a local Wigan Athletic fan club in Hong Kong, who get together to talk football and watch all the games.”

He also addressed the issue of funding, which will arguably be of most interest to Latics fans hoping for a Manchester City-style revolution.

“Yes, funds will be made available, and we have already held discussions with Darren, Joe and the manager to decide what is needed not only this season - which is almost half over - but also the budget for next year and the year after,” Zhang said.

“That will help us to prepare the funds, and also to understand how much is needed to run the club, and how best to take the club to the next level.

“There are uncertainties in any sport, not just football, but we understand that and we are prepared for it.

“What we would like is a progressive approach, rather than really throwing in big amounts of money, and bringing in expensive players.

“We would like to build up the team from the bottom, gradually, developing the club to take it to the next level.

“We believe it is very important to develop all aspects of the football club, including a good training academy, which is vital for the future of the club.”

There was also high praise for outgoing owner Dave Whelan, whose family has handed over control after a magnificent 23-year stint.

“What Mr Dave Whelan has done is a great achievement in developing Wigan Athletic,” Zhang added.

“We really respect his achievements, and he has introduced us to the local council and the local community.

“He is welcome to visit us at the club any time he likes, and to respect his achievements at the club we would like to give him title of honourary president of the club forever.”