Lisa Nandy reveals how close Wigan Athletic came to losing sole control of DW Stadium

Lisa Nandy has revealed how close Wigan Athletic came to losing sole control of the DW Stadium during an agonising last few weeks.
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Latics were brought back from the brink on Wednesday afternoon, when a takeover led by Wigan-born billionaire Mike Danson was given the green light by the EFL.

Read More
Wigan Athletic's new owner receives seal of approval from the Whelan family.

The joy - and relief - in the town was palpable, after the future of the club was left hanging in the balance for the second time in three years.

Lisa Nandy MP at Wigan Athletic's DW StadiumLisa Nandy MP at Wigan Athletic's DW Stadium
Lisa Nandy MP at Wigan Athletic's DW Stadium
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Previous owners Phoenix 2021 Limited had earlier accepted a bid from soft drinks 'entrepreneur' Sarbjot Johal, who had failed to persuade the EFL for the best part of six months he was a suitable owner for Morecambe.

Thankfully, that bid had no real chance of getting over the line.

And while it appeared Danson – who owns a 25 per cent share in the Warriors – only showed his interest at the 11th hour, it turns out he had first got in contact three months ago, when it became apparent the continued late payment of wages was more than just a series of unfortunate occurrences.

"Mike had been in touch with me right at the beginning, the first time the wages hadn't been paid," revealed Ms Nandy.

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"I'd known him before from when he bought into Wigan Warriors, and when he was thinking of buying it, he came to see me.

"I thought he was a decent man actually, really straight, with the interests of the rugby club at heart.

"Obviously, there's the historic rivalry between the rugby and the football.

"But I think, at that point, Talal had only been very interested in doing some kind of deal for the stadium (understood to be 50 per cent).

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"And I really wasn't sure at all how that would be received by the fans.

"It suddenly kind of dawned on all of us, when he got back in touch, that there may be a plan fact, there may even be a plan a, because we didn't really have a plan.

"At that point, it was just about trying to get them to sell, and then try to work out what we were going to do.

"There was a sort of a brief moment where we thought maybe we might have a solution, but it was so fraught with difficulty.

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"I remember thinking we knew where we had to get to...I just couldn't see how we were going to get there.

"We had a meeting set up with Talal, Mr Al Jasmi and the Council, but then we had another spanner thrown in the works.

"All week in the lead-up to the meeting, there had been rumours we were going to be sold to a bitcoin billionaire, with all kinds of rumours swirling.

"Having been through administration, and some of the most dubious characters I've come across in my life coming through the door, trying to convince us to buy the club, alarm bells were going off everywhere.

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"We then got on the call to Talal and Mr Al Jasmi, and that led to another bombshell moment."

That 'bombshell moment' came on Sunday, June 4 when - shortly after Tom Markham and Oliver Gottmann had resigned from the board - the owners confirmed they had agreed a shock deal with Johal.

"Mr Al Jasmi made me a promise when he first bought the club, at dinner with Dave Whelan and his family," she said.

"He said he'd be a good custodian for the club, that they wouldn't own it forever but they would only pass it on to somebody decent.

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"When we had that meeting on the Sunday night, he was clearly very concerned about that, he was clearly very concerned about his reputation, and keeping his word.

"But then he dropped the big bomb on us, that he was selling, that they'd found a buyer and it was pretty much a done deal.

"We told him we had a plan that we thought would work, and he was very fair with us, he told us we would have the final say.

"And I believed him on that, but the only problem we had was time - we didn't have a lot of it.

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"HMRC were breathing down our necks, if any of the suppliers who were owed money had decided to pull the plug, they could have done."

Ms Nandy also spoke of the 'difficulty' of trying to keep fans and staff as updated as possible about the process, while also respecting the boundaries of privacy and confidentiality.

"One of the things I found difficult was people thinking I was withholding information, that the Supporters Club were withholding information, and there was some kind of cover up," she added.

"But actually, this was really high wire stuff...we nearly lost the club two or three times over the space of a week.

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"The thing is, the kind of people who buy football clubs tend to be quite private.

"They often don't want themselves and their families in the firing line., and ongoing commentary

"The ones that aren't, I'm actually more suspicious of, the ones making the most noise often have nothing to back it up.

"You always have to have a fine balance between wanting to get information out there, to keep the fans informed, without jeopardising the future of the club."