English Super League rugby league club Wigan Warriors have stated their interest in acquiring stricken Championship football club Wigan Athletic, citing “sustainability and ownership” of the DW Stadium as a key reason behind their proposal.
Athletic were placed into administration last week, just weeks after a change of ownership under its Hong Kong backers, becoming the first football club to do so following the COVID-19 outbreak. The club’s demise has led to intense scrutiny in sporting and political circles, with Athletic currently 16th in the Championship and facing a 12-point penalty from the English Football League (EFL) that would send it to the foot of the table.
The 25,000-seat DW Stadium is majority owned and operated by the football club, with Warriors a tenant at the facility since 1999. Warriors owner Ian Lenagan, chief executive Gary Speakman and Darryl Eales, former chairman of League One football club Oxford United, are now seeking to bring both clubs under a ‘Wigan Sporting Partnership’ banner, but have stressed they would retain their own staff and training facilities.
In a statement the Warriors said: “We strongly believe that Wigan Athletic is better being locally-owned. As sustainability and ownership of the stadium is equally important to both clubs, we are currently working with our longstanding advisers KPMG and talking to external parties.
“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. We have made the administrators aware of our interest and hope to explore this with them further over the days ahead.
“Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletic are both local sporting institutions and it is our belief that this is a unique opportunity here to bring the ownership of these two great clubs together under one roof, each operating independently as before, but under a Wigan Sporting Partnership banner. It is envisaged that each club would retain all its training grounds, management and facilities.”
Wigan Council owns the freehold to the land on which DW Stadium sits. The Warriors said David Molyneux, Leader of Wigan Council, has confirmed that it “would be very supportive of this initiative”.
Image: Wigan Athletic