Managing the great expectations that come with Middle Eastern takeovers
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Wigan fans up and down the country will be buoyed by the news that the club has changed ownership after Talal Al Hammad – the chairman of a Bahrain-based consortium – confirmed the purchase of Wigan Athletic. Carrying on, Tala Al Hammad also said that it was a remarkable outcome and in some ways, you can understand his incredulity.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen a failed takeover at Newcastle and recently Derby County who, coincidentally, could begin to plummet upon news of the talks breaking down. Indeed, the Rams had the wind in their sails and results had improved, which was down to the prospect of new owners coming in and a new broom sweeping clean. It’s all gone rather stale at Pride Park however with news that Mel Morris will remain in charge. Their 2020/2021 Championship betting odds on relegation also look ominous all of a sudden and are as low as 2/1 in some cases.
It’s not a tale dissimilar to Wigan as the Tics languish near the relegation places in League One. Only in Wigan’s case, a successful takeover has gone through which could serve to galvanize the team and spur them on as they bid to win enough points to stay in the division.
A deal to buy Wigan Athletic has been agreed between Abdulrahman Al-Jasmi’s Phoenix 2021 Ltd and the club’s administrators.
— BBC RM Sport (@BBCRMsport) March 15, 2021
It doesn’t matter how those points come, as long as they do. The club simply can’t afford another relegation on the back of dropping out of the Championship last season. But when the dust settles, what will the Wigan fans want most from their new owners? The temptation is to always use the Manchester City project as the yardstick but the truth is that most takeovers don’t enjoy the success that City have gone on to. This is primarily down to funds and the hard truth that even if owners from the Middle East gain control of a club, they won’t necessarily have the resources that City do. In their instance, they are backed by the state of Abu Dhabi, which has incomparable financial might. Some takeovers actually put clubs in worse positions than they were in and threaten to destroy them. You just have to remember Karl Oyston at Blackpool, the Venkys at Balckburn Rovers, or Portsmouth’s financial implosion when they went into administration twice in three seasons.
That’s not to say hope shouldn’t spring eternal when fresh faces arrive but, rather, one should be cautious until words are backed up by actions.
Indeed, transparency and a concerted effort to connect with a club’s fan base is what a prosperous takeover should be built on.
We can perhaps look back at Andrea Radrizzani’s takeover at Leeds United as the ultimate blueprint. The Italian brought back Elland Road, invested in the squad, and repaired the once severed lines of communication the club had with the fans.
The 46-year-old then took the decision to invest a substantial amount in a phenomenal coach, Marcelo Bielsa, who was able to turn ordinary players into very good ones, thus saving money in the transfer market but also creating a ‘from the group up’ approach which helps to get the entire football club pulling in the right direction. In Leeds’ case, the rest is history, having earned promotion back to the Premier League after 16 years of trying.
Should Wigan’s new owners try a similar approach then prosperous days will return to the DW once more. It’s a waiting game now to see their intentions.
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