At this time, seven years ago, Wigan Athletic were still basking in the bright silver limelight cast by their newly-acquired FA Cup trophy.
Their shock 1-0 victory over the champions of England had been one of the greatest final upsets in the history of the competition – with Ben Watson’s last-gasp header sealing the Latics’ first major accolade in 80 years and plunging the tiny Greater Manchester town into delirium.
The celebrations, quite rightly, went on for weeks.
Locals knew how to throw a football party. By 2013, scenes of intense jubilation among supporters had become something of a semi-common occurrence.
Wigan, traditionally known as a rugby league town, had succumbed to football fever during their epic journey to the top tier in the noughties – and their FA Cup triumph ensured the club would forever hold a place in the history books.
But today, Wigan fans aren’t dreaming of silverware. They’re not even thinking about winning the next match.
They just want to finish the season.
On July 1, news rolled in that the Latics had entered administration – with an imminent 12-point deduction from the EFL all set to send them bottom of the Championship.
A series of financial issues had been pushing the club to the brink for several months, and coronavirus was the final nudge needed to knock them off the cliff.
Wigan’s money woes were well-known, but the announcement still came as something of a shock to many in the footballing world.
Only last month, Hong Kong businessman Wai Kay Au Yeung, of Next Leader Fund (NLF), took full control of the club – with executive chairman Darren Royal claiming this would “negate some of the immediate” damages caused by the pandemic.
The owners passed the EFL’s test and takeover process – which ascertains whether the buyer can financially support a club.
But within weeks, the survival of Wigan Athletic has been left on a knife edge.
Board members are dealing with administrators at Begbies Traynor as we speak – scrambling to find interested parties to save the side.
Wigan enjoyed a fairytale rise to the golden land of the Premier League under former owner Dave Whelan, with the tactical shrewdness of manager Paul Jewell fuelling the firepower of strikers Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts to propel the Latics into the Premier League.
Defying expectations to finish 10th in their debut season, Wigan would remain part of British football’s 20 elite clubs for eight seasons – stunning City in 2013 to lift the FA Cup against all odds and competing in Europe the following year as a result.
The Latics have yo-yo’ed between the second and third rung of the EFL in the past decade, with Whelan stepping down as owner in 2015 and handing the reins to his grandson, David Sharpe.
International Entertainment Corporation bought the club in 2018, but sold off their shares to NLF a little over one month ago.
Wigan’s recent past has been remarkable, but for now, their future appears uncertain.
Fans will be under no illusions as to the gravity of the situation, with the tragic plight of not-too-distant neighbours, Bury, still fresh in the minds of football followers across the country.
Nonetheless, as history has taught us, these next few weeks will see rivalries set aside to provide Wigan with the support they need.
The whole of Greater Manchester – even Manchester City fans who had their hearts broken by the bulge of the net at Wembley in 2013 – will be behind them.
New figures reveal just how much money Manchester United still owe
Manchester United have published their financial report for Q2 and, surprise, surprise, they still owe absolutely tonnes of money.
Sharing the figures for the three months leading up to 31 December on Thursday as we approach the end of the tax year, the club revealed that, in total, the club still owe just shy of £1 billion in various outstanding sums.
Not only does this mark nearly 18 years of debt since the Glazer leveraged buyout in 2005, which immediately put them in over £500 million’s worth of debt, but it also means that the total amount has grown larger and the chances of an imminent takeover are now even more likely.
Breaking down the figures into different sections, Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol explained how although’s United principal debt remains at approximately $650m, a change in the exchange rate meant they owed £535.7m compared to £477.1m at the same point in the previous year. It’s still growing…
Through a combination of gross debt, bank loans and transfer costs with associated fees still yet to be paid, the club owe a whopping £969.6m in outstanding sums. Crikey.
On top the flat rate of debt, £206.2m has been taken from a rolling credit facility (various loans), with another £227.7m owed in outstanding transfer fees, having spent £211.5m on incoming players last summer and a further £49m in the January transfer window as well.
On the other side, despite an increase in debt has increased and overall revenue dropping by 10%, commercial revenue is said to have increased by 43.2% from just £6.3m to over £50m.
The board have insisted to the BBC that figures are evidence of a “stretched” financial situation and that income such as ticket sales are looking as “impressive” as ever. However, it is also worth noting that wages have only gone down mainly because the team dropped out of the Champions League.
Furthermore, although none of the Glazer family members took out a dividend for the first time in six years, they also failed to have an investors’ call following the latest financial statement given the ongoing discussions with bidders looking to buy them out.
There are still said to be as many as eight candidates looking to buy the club, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the Qatari’s still leading the race — though new legislation on ‘fit and proper’ owners soon to be brought in by the Premier League could prove problematic for the latter given their human rights record.
Elsewhere, one of the other bidders is Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus, whose approach to buying the club is an interesting one, to say the least, and while potentially ‘debt free’, it would take some doing.
The Jockey Club are holding a superhero-themed family fun day at Haydock Park Racecourse this Easter
Looking for something to do with the kids in time for the school holidays? Well, Haydock Park Racecourse have got you sorted for Easter weekend with their Superhero Family Day.
For anyone that’s never made it down to Haydock Park and The Jockey Club before, there’s a reason they’re the biggest horse racing organisation in the UK. There’s much more to it than just watching the horses.
Hosting numerous events throughout the year, Jockey Club are once again turning Haydock into a fun venue for all the family with their superhero-themed Easter celebration, with a whole host of activities, crafts and entertainment, as well a series of jump races.
Taking place on Saturday, 8 April, it’s set to be a great day out whether you bring the kids or go along to soak up the festivities solo.
Bringing characters straight from the comic books to life, Haydock will be offering free children’s entertainment throughout the day, including an inflatable assault course, superhero crafts, face painting, magicians, pony shows and more.
There’s even going to be a kid’s costume competition where they can win an Easter chocolate hamper, so make sure they bring along their mask and cape — after all, people always get dressed up when they go to the races!
Adult tickets start from just £25 but, crucially, under 18s go absolutely free so they can enjoy the day and if you’re feeling fancy, you can always book full hospitality packages, complete with a private table, a two-course carvery menu, special access around the venue and more.
You can grab your tickets for the Superhero Family Day HERE.