Crunch Meeting with Talal on future of Wigan Athletic

by | Mar 29, 2023 | News

EFL just wouldn’t allow that

Right, folks, I’m back from Tesco (Vimpto running out crisis) and can give you my (fairly) undivided attention, although I think my quick update last night says most, and there are other updates on Twitter if you go there, @mfemigs being particularly good. I believe PWU podcast will be doing a special edition.
The meeting was attended by people from a range of the bigger Latics social media groups, Talal and Tom Markham and Oliver Gottmann, Jamie the new media manager, Shaun Maloney, Caroline Chair of WASC, Jason Taylor the Wigan Athletic Supporter Liaison Officer and Paul Kendrick.
To those suggesting it could/should have been recorded or streamed quite simply logistically that would have been a nightmare to cover everyone in the room, and the conversation flowed freer than if it had been recorded. As a simple example, after the formal meeting (that wasn’t at all formal) broke up little groups gathered to chat. I happened to be chatting with Shaun, and it was hugely interesting, but he was openly talking to me and another attendee about his thoughts for this Saturday’s game. No way would that want to go out to all and sundry (I’m not by the way claiming to be special – well, some people say I am – but rather to show that a normal chat would not be suitable for transmission wider).
However, I digress. The simple one liner if you are pushed for time and don’t want my waffle, is that the ship has been stabilised, lessons have been learned, and the whole situation on and off the pitch seems more under control.
If you remember I said I wanted three things: what happened, where are we now, and what does the future, both short- and long-term hold. And most importantly did I feel the Board were being truthful?
To answer the latter point,”yes”, I and I think others were satisfied they were being straight with us. There is no intention to sell the club, but finances have got to be kept under control.
How did we get here? Spiralling wage bills were the major issue. The wage bill ended up hugely above what was planned, but that is being brought under control and the plan is for the future to run with a contingency of 20% of the budget – if the budget is £10 million then they will be looking to live within £12 million. Eminently sensible, to my ears.
There are those who have said on Twitter “not got any money these men”. That’s patently not true, but cash flow has been an issue. The owner has sold a London property for £33 million and so the ownership group has a reserve of cash in a UK bank account (so no concerns about Bahraini banks being shut on Fridays etc). While that cash is to be used towards Latics it doesn’t mean Shaun has £33 million to spend. EFL just wouldn’t allow that, but also it is business suicide. The money can be drip-fed to cover the 20% overspend, but we still have to live within our means. As Talal says, virtually every club in the World except one or two, run at an operating loss. We are by no means unique, despite what fans of certain other clubs will have you believe, but we need to act prudently.
The property was put for sale In November but as is the way of all property transactions there were delays on the way, particularly with £33 million of asset. The failure to be able to get the asset into cash caused the cash flow issues that led to the wages not being paid. That has now been sorted, and Talal and the Board met with the EFL yesterday to present the plan, but also got a warning of future penalties. As an aside by the way, as I said they were at a meeting with the EFL so were unavailable to talk to the media – they didn’t refuse to talk as some would have you believe.
So spiralling costs and less-than-ideal financial control, allied to asset liquidity, led us to where we were.
Where we are is that we certainly have enough in a UK bank to pay the players and staff now and to the end of the season.
A business plan, agreed with the EFL is in place. Obviously we are where we are so we hope to rationalise the wage bill, but with contracts in place that is not an overnight solution. Shaun has two plans for whichever division we are in, and again as an aside seems a very personable and astute guy. I think he could turn out to be a great manager for us when the wind turns.
The general plan is to start introducing Development squad players into the team – not to save money, but because Shaun sees real promise in some – maybe sooner rather than later.
He is aiming for a squad with roughly 4 under 21, 8 aged 21-26, 8 at 26-31, and a few (up to 4) older heads. That’s his aim, and he was talking about getting the Development squad to Christopher Park rather than the Academy so they can integrate.
On the business side of Latics they were very concerned we had no Marketing Manager, and aim to fix that. That’s what’s needed to sort out shirt sponsorship, ground naming, and all the odds and ends that can bring in extra money to the club. They are fully aware of the shambles that the ticketing system is, but it’s too late to sort for the ST sale, but they are looking at a more professional set up. The club shop will be moved out of the 1990s, and data management systems put in place – an example was that because it was under previous ownerships etc they have no idea how many shirts were sold over the last 10 years or so. Basic business data management, that they look to improve.
All of which, I think, points that the ownership group and the Board see themselves being involved in the long term. There have been comments whether Mr Al Jasmi is still engaged, and the answer is absolutely. Talal was saying how he had huge difficulties explaining why we are bottom of the league when we won League 1 last season but Rotherham who were second are above us, while we have a huge spend. Talal said he was very uncomfortable with it. As also he is uncomfortable that his name is being bandied around in bad terms – not that he is offended, but that he doesn’t want to be in that position. He would love us, in the short term, to be no news at all. Just quietly going along.
Shaun too backed up that Mr Al Jasmi is on board. When he went over to Bahrain he did a presentation to Talal one day, and then on the second day repeated it to the owner, who stopped him with numerous questions at each slide. He certainly hasn’t lost interest, but is a businessman who wants value for his money.
So that’s about it – not very concise, but fairly comprehensive I hope.
To sum up, we got in a mess through poor financial controls, exacerbated by slow release of asset fundis, we are now more stable but more work has to be done to get spending under control, the EFL are watching closely but (despite what we sometimes think) are supportive, and we have a manager who seems to have a plan.
Believe – onwards and upwards.
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