By DOUG THOMSON and DAVID ROGERS
Wigan Warriors’ bid to buy the town’s troubled Football League club, with whom they share the DW Stadium, appears to have won the backing of a significant number of supporters from both clubs.
Although on the whole supporters seem split on the idea, with some rugby fans concerned that the football club could be a drain on resources, it has the backing of the town’s Council.
Wigan Athletic are in administration as they fight for survival in football’s Championship, as in Rugby League, the second tier of the league system.
And Warriors owner Ian Lenagan, a former Football League and Oxford United FC chairman, is part of a group aiming to bring both clubs under one umbrella.
Lenagan, fellow former Oxford chairman Darryl Eales and Gary Speakman have made contact with the administrators, who are trying to find a buyer for the football club.
The group said in a statement: “We strongly believe 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 long-standing 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.
“Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletic are both local sporting institutions and it is our belief that this is a unique opportunity to brig 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 leader David Molyneux said of the football club: “It is important we do everything we can to secure its future.”
At one time, both clubs were owned by Dave Whelan, but he sold his Rugby League share to Lenagan in 2007, while the football club was sold earlier this year to a consortium based in Hong Kong.
One Warriors supporter, writing on the Wigan Today website and signing himself as Darren Wrudd, summed up the view of many Wigan supporters.
“That a Wigan professional sporting club, with such dedicated fans and staff, is struggling financially is simply awful, and the chance the organisation could be saved by a man like Mr Lenagan is a huge plus for both clubs,” he wrote.
“Latics would be getting an owner who is so dedicated to Wigan as a town that they would find themselves once more on steady ground.
“Financial stability breeds confidence on many levels, and the professionalism he would bring to the management of the club cannot be underestimated.
“With a vast experience from his involvement with Oxford United Football Club and the English Football League, he has much to bring to the table for Latics.
“And with the Council’s backing, I hope he gets the deal sorted and Latics can finish the season in style.
“From the Warriors’ point of view, I would like to see the control of the stadium in Mr Lenagan’s hands, as we have suffered in recent years with the ridiculous situation of seven or eight weeks of away games in summer so the pitch can be pampered for a while.
“This needs to stop.
“It is costing the Warriors season ticket revenue as people are getting a little cheesed off in what seems to be us being treated as a second-rate tenant.
“Too often we run the risk of home cup draws or play-off games having to be played elsewhere and, frankly for a premier, world renowned Rugby League club, this is not right.
“With a management of the stadium given new guidelines on fixture preparation, it should be easy to keep the pitch in great condition for both teams, so a standard home and away fixture list should be possible for the Warriors.
“The biggest hurdle of course could be the fans. I hope not, as there is not room for bitterness in a great small town who punches well above its national status.
“Mr Lenagan may just prove that the town really is red, white and blue.”