Wigan Athletic takeover: What happens next?
WHY IS THE TAKEOVER TAKING SO LONG?
When has anything to do with Wigan Athletic Football Club been simple? It’s now more than four and a half months since Latics were placed into administration, and seven weeks since Begbies Traynor announced they had come to agreement with the Spanish bidders, who had paid a ‘substantial’ deposit and been granted exclusivity. The matter was then passed on to the EFL, who have held several meetings with the Spanish – with the admins, and the Supporters Club – but questions seemingly remain, and the issue continues to drag on.
WHY DON’T THE EFL JUST GET ON WITH IT?
The EFL received so much stick – some fair, some maybe not so fair – for their role in Latics tumbling into administration on July 1. As a result, they obviously want to do everything they can to make sure things are absolutely right this time. If this takes an extra few weeks, so be it. The last thing we need is for the club to be thrown from the frying pan into the fire, and left to burn out. Everyone connected to Latics needs the authorities to do their job this time – however long that takes. If questions remain, let them be answered in full – or this time there may be no coming back.
WHEN IS THIS LIKELY TO COME TO A HEAD?
The Spanish bidders last week saw their exclusivity period extend to this Friday (November 20), which some have seen as the ‘deadline’ to get the deal done. The reality is far different. There’s nothing to stop the exclusivity being further extended if the administrators see fit. And of course, the EFL could even give the green light before then, if all of their questions have been answered to their satisfaction.
WHY ARE THE ADMINISTRATORS NOT SPEAKING TO ANY OTHER BIDDERS IN THE MEANTIME?
The exclusivity granted on payment of the ‘substantial’ deposit means the administrators are no longer entertaining new bids – until the EFL make their decision either way.
COULD EXCLUSIVITY BE NEVER-ENDING, OR ARE THE ADMINISTRATORS ABLE TO PULL THE PLUG AND LOOK AT ANOTHER BID?
Some of the other bidders have voiced their displeasure at the ‘exclusivity’ situation, believing its removal would allow their apparently ‘superior’ bids to be considered instead. But looking at it from the administrators’ point of view... they are close to completing on a house sale, and all of a sudden another buyer comes in saying his offer is better. If the admins turn away from the Spanish, and the other bids aren’t what they seem, they could not only have turned their back on a credible bid – which has as yet raised no red flags – but the whole process may have to be restarted. Time which the football club just doesn’t have. Of course, the rival bidders say they would be able to complete a deal in weeks. But you can see why the admins – safety-first, ‘non-gamblers’, in the words of Paul Stanley – are remaining cautious.
WHY IS THE SUPPORTERS CLUB NOT BACKING THE SPANISH BID?
As the Supporters Club have been keen to clarify, it’s not that they aren’t backing the Spanish bid. But more that they feel unable to move forward with the proposed deal at this time. The Spaniards say they are keen to have the support of the fans – and their £870,000 funds – and will resume discussions if and when they take control. But the offer of a four-per cent stake in the club hasn’t been seen by most as a fair trade-off for such a large investment, generated by the incredible efforts of the fans themselves.
IF THE SPANISH BID FAILS, ARE THERE OTHER ALTERNATIVES?
Yes, there’s understood to be several other bids waiting in the wings if the Spanish don’t get the green light. The most recent – and bizarre – came to light over the weekend, with a Far East group, fronted by a Wigan-born businessman, wanting to take the club back into the Premier League. Oh, and invest hundreds of millions of pounds into the borough. It sounds far too good to be true, but sources involved in the process have confirmed discussions have taken place. There’s also a consortium involving Darren Royle, and including ex-Manchester City defender Ray Ranson – and a very wealthy backer. Ranson has also worked alongside Latics’ Academy chief Gregor Rioch at Coventry, during which time future England stars James Maddison and Callum Wilson came through the ranks. The French-American consortium – fronted by Oostende chief executive Gauthier Ganaye – also haven’t gone away, although they have previously been dismissed as ‘not serious bidders’ by Gerald Krasner. Ex-Port Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite said months ago he was happy to stand back and be the club’s last option if all other avenues have been explored – but his record at Vale Park is chequered to say the least. And finally there’s the ‘Plan B’ option, which kicked off the Supporters Club’s amazing fundraising efforts in the first place. That would see the fans group – with Jonathan Jackson in a prominent role – taking over the football club and running it for now with their £870,000 pot, and Warriors owner Ian Lenagan purchasing the stadium.
ARE ANY OF THOSE BETTER BIDS THAN THE SPANISH?
Obviously all of the bidders are adamant theirs is the best bid – funny, that! – but none have got as far as presenting their blueprint to the EFL for validation. The Spanish were the first to put their money where their mouths were, and as such they have first crack at getting their bid over the line. The others can only sit back and watch. And reflect on whether they were too slow to look a gift horse – a football club, a training ground and a modern stadium for less than £4million – in the mouth.
WHY CAN’T THOSE BIDS ALSO BE PUT TO THE EFL?
The EFL will only consider one party at a time. Namely, the Spanish bid put forward by the administrators.
MOVING TO MATTERS ON THE PITCH, WHAT NOW AFTER JOHN SHERIDAN?
Latics are currently without a manager after John Sheridan’s move to Swindon at the end of last week. The 56-year-old had only been working on a monthly contract and, despite the Spanish bidders saying they had offered him a deal for the rest of the campaign, he opted to join Swindon. Latics will not be appointing a successor given the current state of play. They have Leam Richardson and Gregor Rioch on the coaching staff who will once again step up to lead the side, until the takeover goes through, and the new owners – whoever they may be – decide on a new manager.
HOW LONG CAN THIS SOAP OPERA GO ON FOR?
Good question. The huge player drain over the summer saw Latics receive millions of pounds which satisfied the immediate need of creditors – footballing and non-footballing – as well as the wage bill. But it’s not a bottomless pit and, with most of the saleable assets having been offloaded, the clock is ticking. The administrators say there’s enough money in the pot to see the club into the new year. But beyond that...who knows? This is by no means a problem facing just Latics. Stanley believes most clubs in the EFL are looking at the same black hole and – unlike Latics – they have not settled all their debts and slashed their wage bill to the bare minimum. A takeover would be welcomed in that respect – but so would the reported Premier League rescue package, which is believed to be worth £50million to clubs in the bottom two tiers.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE TEAM?
That’s the other problem. The longer this takeover saga runs and runs, the wors e things are getting on the field. Latics haven’t won for 10 matches – which sees them bottom of League One, and out of the EFL Cup, the Papa Johns Trophy and the FA Cup – beaten at home by non-league Chorley. The squad – the smallest in the league already – has been decimated by injury, with far too much reliance on the club’s youngsters, who are talented but also desperately in need of senior support. The various bidders have promised anywhere between four and 10 new players in January. Without reinforcements, League Two beckons. But with no guarantee new owners will even be in place by then, it’s a desperately worrying situation for Latics – on and off the pitch. To borrow from the club’s famous anthem, the skies indeed are grey...and we could desperately do with some sunshine. Any time soon would be nice...
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