What happened when Talal Al Hammad met Wigan Athletic fans' representatives

Wigan Athletic chairman Talal Al Hammad met with a cross section of the club's supporter base at the DW Stadium on Tuesday night in an attempt to build bridges following the recent upheaval.

Also present was manager Shaun Maloney, chief operating officer Dr Tom Markham and non-executive director Dr Oliver Gottmann, who answered a host of questions on a wide range of issues in the chairman's suite for more than two hours.

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Indeed, on more than one occasion - when things looked to be wrapping up - Al Hammad urged those who hadn't yet asked a question to 'ask me anything, please'.

Latics chairman Talal Al Hammad, with chief operating officer Dr Tom MarkhamLatics chairman Talal Al Hammad, with chief operating officer Dr Tom Markham
Latics chairman Talal Al Hammad, with chief operating officer Dr Tom Markham
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He also pledged that this would become a regular occurrence, offering to hold similar meetings whenever he is over, 'two or three times a year'.

Al Hammad kicked off proceedings by explaining the most recent delay in paying wages - the fourth time this has happened this season.

On the three previous occasions, administrative issues had been blamed, but the fourth was put down to a 'liquidity' problem, which he explained in detail.

One of the owner’s properties in London has been sold for £33million, but the sale/funds transfer took longer than anticipated.

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The money will cover the remaining shortfall for this year and next, while the club will work closely with the EFL to ensure they are in compliance with their directives.

He was asked whether the total funds from the sale was earmarked for the club.

No, was the unsurprising answer, but it would be there to be called upon if needed, while adhering to the agreed budget.

Sticking with finances, Al Hammad confirmed Latics' wage bill was the 12th/13th highest in the Championship, underlining the backing given by the owners.

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Despite that, the squad has the lowest collective value in the division (from widely available stats), and is the second oldest behind West Brom.

The escalating outgoings - in excess of the two-year plan agreed with EFL - were put due to higher than budgeted wages, including promotion bonuses, and plugging gaps in the squad, with the Charlie Wyke situation being mentioned as a mitigating factor.

That resulted in the wage bill last year, which was agreed at approximately £3million, ended up being approximately £7million.

"We were promoted too early?" came the question.

"Possibly," replied Dr Markham.

"Was it down to naivety?"

"No," insisted Al Hammad. "Just mismanagement. I won't blame anyone else though. It's my fault, and I'll make up for it."

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He also said he remains on good terms with outgoing CEO Mal Brannigan, whose departure was announced last Friday, with the duo communicating prior to this meeting.

Al Hammad also reiterated the club was 'absolutely not for sale' having been asked directly by the EFL this week.

If they were going to walk away they would have done so already, he insisted, not cover the latest round of wages and front up to fans and staff.

"I don't need this in my life," he said. "I want this in my life."

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Mr Al Jasmi will continue to fund the club indefinitely, albeit under a revised structure agreed with the manager, who remains in full agreement

Maloney was then in the spotlight, answering questions predominantly about the on-field future.

He made presentations to Mr Al Jasmi in Bahrain, which were favourable received, with the very clear message the club cannot lose such sums every year - which Maloney was in full agreement with.

There are 17 senior players who are under contract beyond this summer as things stand, some with high salaries.

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Some of those players will move on, but Maloney wants to retain most of them, who he says have played a key role already since he took charge in January.

He also said players not belonging to the club have already said 'I want to be part of this', because it remains an attractive proposition moving forward.

When asked where he saw things in five years, Maloney said the plan - if it works - would see the club on a stable footing, with controlled spending, aiming to be 'challenging for the top six of the Championship'.

Maloney was adamant that this is a realistic ambition - even with the possibility of League One football next term.

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"If we have to lose a year, so be it, but we can get there," said Maloney, who is making contingencies for both staying up and going down.

The Academy, he said, remains at the heart of the club's operating plan, with around nine or 10 earmarked for the first-team squad next year, working alongside a nucleus of senior players who are committed to the rebuild.

"That was always going to be the plan," he said. "Not as a result of what's happened."

The 'reserves' will be brought back 'in-house' to Christopher Park from their present base on Stadium Way

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Maloney admitted he loves being back at Christopher Park, which allows him to see every single member of staff.

He'd like it newly-configured to integrate all staff, with the club looking at branding up, modernising and so on.

"It worked for us during the Premier League years, we had some good times here, it can work now," he said.

The Scot said he only wanted to recruit players who can either add value to be sold on, or to help the team progress upwards.

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Adopting a new 'data-led approach', he wants players watched at least 10-12 times in person, and all background checks done, before lining up any deal.

When asked whether he favoured a technical director/sporting director system being brought in, Maloney said long-term that would be the plan if the club returned to the Premier


But for the moment, he didn't feel it was necessary.

Al Hammad, meanwhile, believes Latics have the right man for the long-term project - on and off the pitch.

"The club Shaun played for had an identity," he said. "At the moment we don't have an identity. We will get that identity back."

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Al Hammad then took most of the remaining questions, where he acknowledged marketing - which had been a massive issue over the years - needed to be revamped.

Stadium and shirt sponsorship was also discussed, but would have to be market value and not devalued.

One potential shirt sponsor approached the club last summer, only to offer a derisory figure - which was rejected - and they went with another local club in League One.

The stadium will remain the ‘DW’ while a sponsor is sought, partly out of respect for Dave Whelan, and because it "makes no sense to make it the Wigan Athletic Stadium and then change again in a few months".

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Season tickets will be back on sale soon with early bird deadlines tweaked, and improvements made to the ticketing system.

Regarding the chief executive vacancy, Al Hammad said he’d spoken to, among others, Jonathan Jackson, David Sharpe, Brenda Spencer, Phil Williams, Lisa Nandy, Roberto Martinez, and hopefully also Mr Whelan, for input – real ‘Wigan’ people who know the club inside out.

On a separate point, Al Hammad and Markham confirmed they are not, and never have been, directors of EPIC.

And the meeting closed with a question about how he'd want news of the meeting to be relayed by the fans' groups to their respective sections of the fanbase.

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"I don't want anyone to stick up for me," he said. "My actions will regain trust.

"This will never happen again, I promise.

"We won't have crazy budgets again. We will go from spending 235 per cent of revenue to a maximum of 120 per cent.

"This is still the beginning, we're only two years in.

"We saved the club once. We deserve a second chance to make this right."