The administrator of Wigan Athletic has said lawyers have been appointed to investigate the circumstances of the club’s collapse, including the rumour of a possible gambling connection cited by the EFL chairman, Rick Parry.
The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy also jointly wrote to Parry calling for the EFL to conduct an investigation, saying: “There are serious questions to be asked about the EFL’s processes, with the club’s new owner being approved just a matter of days before it was plunged into administration.” They also asked the EFL to suspend the club’s 12-point penalty for going into administration – which could apply this season or next depending on its final league position – pending the outcome of the investigation.
Rumours have been swirling through football since the Wigan directors, including the chairman Darren Royle, were said to be shellshocked by the sudden plunge of the club into administration by a Hong Kong-based owner, Au Yeung, on Wednesday, immediately after he took over the club.
According to documents filed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, the previous owner, International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), sold Wigan for £17.5m only five weeks earlier to a consortium including Au Yeung, who then took overall control last week. IEC, based and listed in Hong Kong, registered in the Cayman Islands, operates a hotel casino complex in Manila, capital of the Philippines. The chairman and 56% owner, Stanley Choi, is a Hong Kong-based businessman and high-stakes poker player.
On Thursday Parry was recorded without his knowledge outside his home, discussing one of the rumours with a Wigan supporter, saying: “There’s rumours that there is a bet in the Philippines on them being relegated, because the previous owner has got gambling interests in the Philippines.”
An EFL spokesman explained that Parry had had “a much wider and impromptu discussion” in which “various rumours and reports that have been circulating” were also discussed.
“Whilst the chairman was unaware he was being filmed, he was happy to engage in the debate and appreciates this is a concerning and challenging time for all those associated with the club,” the spokesman said.
The administrator, Gerald Krasner, said other stories were circulating as well as the one Parry discussed, and that they would be investigated, although he declined to disclose details.
“As a result of information I have received today, I have instructed lawyers to open an investigation file, to look at certain matters that have been brought to my attention,” Krasner said.
Royle, son of the former Everton and Manchester City player and manager Joe Royle, was introduced to IEC at a conference in mid-2017, according to IEC’s original document setting out its purchase of Wigan Athletic. Darren Royle then introduced IEC to Wigan’s previous long-term owner, the local retail magnate Dave Whelan, when Whelan was considering selling the club, and IEC bought it from him for £15.9m in November 2018. After it bought the club, Darren Royle became the chairman, and Joe Royle a director.
Neither IEC nor Au Yeung has yet commented on the administration or its circumstances.