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Wigan falls into administration, risks becoming Covid-19's first club casualty

Urgent search for a buyer begins the day after EFL chief expressed 'cautious optimism' that all clubs would make it through crisis

WIGAN ATHLETIC fell into administration today, as the impact of the coronavirus crisis began to take its toll on English football.

The Championship side are the country’s first professional club to do so since the pandemic began.

The club will be deducted 12 points as a result of the move, but this will not be applied until the end of the season.

If they are relegated, the sanction would be applied to the start of their League One campaign in 2020-21, but if their results on the pitch are good enough to stay up, it will be applied to the final 2019-20 table instead.

They currently sit in 14th on 50 points, but a 12-point drop would take them bottom and four points shy of safety.

The Latics have recently put together a sparkling run of form, winning six and drawing three of their last nine matches, having started the season poorly.

On Tuesday, EFL chairman Rick Parry dismissed predictions of mass bankruptcies due to the pandemic and said he was determined to emerge from the crisis with the league’s membership intact.

“I don’t think for one minute the virus is permanently vanished but compared with where we were even six weeks ago there are definitely grounds for cautious optimism,” he told The Times.

Wigan’s fate was confirmed in a statement from the club’s joint administrators this lunchtime.

“Our immediate objectives are to ensure the club completes all its fixtures this season and to urgently find interested parties to save Wigan and the jobs of the people who work for the club,” the administrators said.

“Obviously the suspension of the Championship season due to Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the recent fortunes of the club.

“Wigan Athletic has been a focal point and source of pride for the town since 1932 and anyone who is interested in buying this historic sporting institution should contact the joint administrators directly.”

The club recorded a net loss of £9.2 million in their most recent annual accounts for the year ending June 30 2019 — an increase of £1.5m on the previous year.

They were owned by JJB Sports co-founder Dave Whelan until November 2018, when he and his family sold to the Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation (IEC).

There was a further change of ownership on May 29 of this year, when IEC divested its ownership to Next Leader Fund.

IEC said in a letter to fans its decision came “after thorough assessment of several factors, including the club’s financial position, management team and objectives, particularly the promotion to the Premier League.”

“There are areas of misalignment in expectations which we feel may hinder our partnership going forward.”

Latics’ collapse has sparked further calls for the government to intervene and save clubs affected by the pandemic, but sports secretary Oliver Dowden has previously said that “football should first look after itself.”

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