Ian Lenagan hopes for "far greater" cooperation between Wigan Warriors & Wigan Athletic
Ian Lenagan would like “far greater” cooperation between Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletic – once they have struck a new rental agreement.
He says the Super League club are in “amicable talks” with the League One outfit about terms over their tenancy at the DW Stadium.
Despite not yet striking a deal, the Warriors chairman made it clear he wants to work together with Latics – now under the ownership of the Phoenix 2021 Ltd group – and believes their new chief executive Mal Brannigan feels the same way.
“We’re in amicable talks (about a rental agreement),” Lenagan told the Wigan Observer.
“My vision is still the same, we want to agree the rental and cooperation between the clubs on a far greater level - Mal clearly wants to do that, which is cooperate together.”
Lenagan last week appeared at a fans’ forum in front of 120 Warriors supporters at Robin Park.
The club later released a transcript of the evening, which was wide-ranging and candid, in which the chairman revealed he made three unsuccessful bids to buy Latics’ training ground and the DW Stadium when the club was in administration.
His admission that he didn’t try and buy Wigan Athletic outright was seen by some of their supporters as a contradiction to a statement issued last July, in which it was announced he, Darryl Eales and Gary Speakman would lead an initiative to try and “bring the ownership of these two great clubs together under one roof, each operating independently as before, but under a Wigan Sporting Partnership banner.”
The statement at the time said they were talking to external parties and “our intention is to identify other investors quickly and start due diligence on the football club with the intention of making a bid in due course.”
Lenagan, speaking to the Wigan Observer, says he bid £3.5m for the DW Stadium with the intention of the current relationship being reversed – Latics becoming the tenants – with the football club handed the training ground for free.
That move, though, came after he had “worked very hard” to try and attract investors to help rescue Latics under his vision of a Wigan Sporting Partnership – an umbrella organisation with three independent strands: Warriors, Latics and the DW Stadium.
He told the Observer: “What I tried to do was put together a consortium to buy the club and the stadium.
“I never wanted control of Wigan Athletic, no – it’s not what my statement (last July) said. We wanted investors.
"We were trying to get money out of other people but it was all on the basis that the majority of the club was held by Wigan Athletic people, like Gary Speakman, like Jonathan Jackson, like Caroline Molyneux and the Supporters Club.
“I have never believed Wigan Warriors or Ian Lenagan should control Wigan Athletic, it wasn’t sensible.
“I wanted three separate subsidiaries – one Wigan Warriors, one Wigan Athletic and one the DW Stadium.”
Their failure to secure enough funding led to attempts to buy Latics’ training ground and the DW, and he outlined what he intended had he been successful.
“We put in three separate bids, with the intention of giving the training ground lease to Wigan Athletic and having (the DW) so we became the owners and they leased, yes we did that for the benefit of Wigan Athletic,” he said.
“My view was a simple one, the bid went in for more than it was sold for in the end, to buy the stadium and training ground with the training ground lease immediately handed to Wigan Athletic and the rental agreement for the DW not dissimilar to ours, but with some changes - so each got a share of things like food and beverage, which they don’t get currently.
“So it was a good, sensible way, for Wigan Athletic to be independent.
“In the end the club sold for less, but I took the view, we didn’t want to run Wigan Athletic – that’s the wrong thing to do, it’s a principle.
“It’s not a financial issue, though the losses they had, I didn’t want to cover – I wanted someone else to run Wigan Athletic and carry it, and we would protect the stadium and training ground for both clubs for the future.”
Lenagan was asked at the fans’ forum if he or millionaire Mike Danson – who owns a 25 per cent stake in the club – could build a separate stadium, which he said was not feasible.
He told the fans' forum: “We are trying to take the common-sense line. A stadium that is used by both clubs in town makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense for supporters of both. I’ve always taken the view that that is the right view. It’s where we are.”
Warriors’ executive director Kris Radlinski said negotiations are "in the right spirit”, that he speaks to Latics CEO Brannigan regularly and that Wigan Council – which owns the land, on which the DW Stadium was built – is aware of the situation, full story here