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Wigan, like Sunderland before them, are another example of why the EFL need to do better

The off-field situation surrounding Wigan Athletic at the minute is yet another reminder to fans of all clubs - Sunderland included - that more needs to be done by the authorities when allowing clubs to change hands.

Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Nobody needs to tell Sunderland supporters about what it’s like to suffer under neglectful ownership.

Our rapid descent from the Premier League to League One took just two seasons, with back-to-back relegations against the backdrop of mounting debts, a lack of leadership from the top and unsustainable spending ensuring that we were on the ropes.

I don’t need to go in any great detail about it again, because all of you reading this lived through that awful spell for our football club, but I’m pretty sure deep down that we’d never wish what we went through on the fans of any other team.

When Ellis Short turned Sunderland over to the Madrox group the situation could have been very different, and his decision to write off an enormous amount of debt that the club owed out arguably was the difference between the club staying alive and going bust.

We aren’t the only ones, though. The EFL is full of football clubs that, at some point or another, have been badly managed by people who should really never have been near them in the first place.

Gigg Lane - Bury FC Photo by Visionhaus

I look at the situation fans of Bury find themselves in currently, and clubs like Darlington, Oldham, Southend, Macclesfield, Chester City, and Rushden & Diamonds before them — they are all good examples of why the testing that goes into allowing someone to purchase a football club should be as strict as can possibly be, because no amount of money or good-will PR stunts will ever make up for the loss of a once-proud institution.

Wigan Athletic, a team who finished above us last season as the Champions of League One, find themselves currently in a perilous position. Their players and staff haven’t been paid on time on multiple occasions this season, a drama they really could do without as the football club attempts to stay in the Championship.

There are various players in the Wigan squad that used to play for Sunderland, and I do feel for them - no matter what you think about the money that footballers are paid, it’s a shameful situation that their club was even turned over to the people at the top in the first place.

Things have gotten so bad now there that players are speaking out publicly about the situation - it’s grim, no matter which angle you look at it from.

I know that there’s a friendly rivalry between Sunderland and Wigan that has developed over recent years, but their fans and their staff deserve better. Being paid your wages on time is the least you expect from an employer, and the fact that all of this is going on when they really should be focusing on the job at hand simply isn’t good enough.

Wigan’s owners aren’t performing their duty of care to their employees, but I’d argue that it should never have come to this.

This isn’t even the first time they’ve been through something like this, either - the club was previously in administration in 2020, with controversy surrounding goings on in the midst of another relegation struggle.

How many times do we need to have a situation like what happened at Bury before the footballing authorities do something about it?

Why is it that just about anyone with a bloated bank balance can stick their grubby paws all over these pillars of the community, and institutions?

How many clubs in the Championship and League One are spending beyond their means in order to gamble on promotion? How many of them are running at huge losses, losses facilitated by owners who have no emotional connection to the football clubs they’re the guardians of?

I know some people will have very little sympathy for Wigan, their fans and their players, but I stand in solidarity with them, and fans of any other football club who are worried what the future may hold for their precious football clubs.

The EFL have to do better. Not just for fans of Wigan, but for all of us, because the more they allow these charlatans to enter our game, the more likely it is that it will happen again. Not just to Wigan, but to Sunderland or any other football club standing at the heart of our communities across the country.

None of this is good enough.


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