Exclusive: Wigan Athletic 'scandal' could accelerate EFL reform of owners’ and directors’ test

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
James Ducker
·2 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
A general view of the Dave Whelan statue outside the DW Stadium, home to Wigan Athletic  - PA
A general view of the Dave Whelan statue outside the DW Stadium, home to Wigan Athletic - PA

Wigan Athletic’s administration “scandal” is likely to accelerate the English Football League’s plans to overhaul the controversial owners’ and directors’ test.

The embattled Championship club’s administrators have launched an investigation into claims aired by Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, that their financial crisis is linked to a bet on the club being relegated this season.

Lisa Nandy, the Wigan MP, has called for a full inquiry into what she described as a “major global scandal” after Wigan were put into administration and subjected to a 12-point deduction only four weeks after the club was bought by Next Leader Fund from another Hong Kong based company, International Entertainment Corporation.

The dramatic turn of events has again raised serious questions over the effectiveness of the EFL’s owners’ and directors’ test, which vets prospective buyers.

Until recently, both companies were owned by the same businessman, Dr Choi Chiu Fai Stanley, who is also a professional poker player.

Wai Kay Au Yeung, a Chinese businessman, has since replaced Dr Choi as majority shareholder of Next Leader Fund and is said to be unwilling to invest any more money into the club, which he is understood to have purchased for £17.5 million last month.

Telegraph Sport understands the EFL board are keen to introduce a more robust test amid misgivings about some of the owners who have been permitted to buy clubs down the years. Last year, Bury collapsed and were expelled from the Football League amid widespread criticism of how the club was run financially.

It is thought the EFL had hoped to make more progress on revamping the test by now but the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis has slowed that process and any changes are unlikely to be straight forward. They would have to be voted through by the clubs and, while many have called for more stringent checks, there is also thought to be a general reluctance to be tied to a restrictive test that could reduce sale options in the future.

“The test as currently written is extremely limited and it needs a rethink,” an EFL source said. “In the case of Wigan’s owner, he had provided the assurances in terms of future funding promptly but therein lies the weakness of the regulatory system. It’s a rudimentary test.”