Wigan Athletic has entered administration following the “significant impact” of the coronavirus pandemic on the football club’s finances.
Paul Stanley, Gerald Krasner and Dean Watson from Begbies Traynor have been appointed as joint administrators, the Championship team said in a statement.
Krasner said: “Our immediate objectives are to ensure the club completes all its fixtures this season and to urgently find interested parties to save Wigan Athletic FC and the jobs of the people who work for the club.”
It marks the first professional club in England to fall into administration during the pandemic, just weeks after a Hong Kong based consortium took over the club and promised to steel its future.
As recently as last week, a Hong Kong-based businessman, Wai Kay Au Yeung, was registered as the owner of more than 75 per cent of the club’s holding company. Au Yeung had initially been a minority shareholder in the Next Leader Fund (NFL) consortium.
On 4 June, the club’s owners, the International Entertainment Corporation, approved the sale of Wigan Athletic to NFL in a deal with £17.5m, plus repayment of £24.4m the company had invested in the club.
Krasner added: “Obviously the suspension of the Championship season due to Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the recent fortunes of the club.
“Wigan Athletic has been a focal point and source of pride for the town since 1932 and anyone who is interested in buying this historic sporting institution should contact the joint administrators.”
The club played a Championship game as recently as yesterday, where Wigan Athletic won 3-0 against Stoke City.
Its next match against Brentford is due to take place this Saturday.
Karish Andrews, partner in the Sports Business Group at law firm Lewis Silkin, commented: “The Covid-19 crisis was always going to cause great difficulty for football clubs that rely heavily on match day revenue. Most clubs below the Premier League still have a very precarious financial position despite financial fair play rules.
Andrews added that it was “remarkable” the club announced it will enter administration just one month after its takeover by NFL.
“Perhaps it is time for secured funding to be made available before any change of control of a club can take place,” he added.
“Administration does not mean this is the end for Wigan and hopefully a new owner can be found to keep the club alive. From FA Cup winners to administration in just seven years shows the fragility of football club ownership.”