Wigan Athletic owners cite Brexit as reason for selling up

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Wigan Athletic's DW Stadium (PA)

The owner of a Championship football club has cited Brexit as one of the reasons it is selling up.

Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) has announced the sale of Wigan Athletic.

It said the “impact” of Brexit would reduce fans’ ability to spend money on the club, as well as making it less attractive to investors.

Wigan’s ownership is set to be transferred to a fund that is 51% owned by current chairman Stanley Choi.

Setting out the £17.5m sale in a report on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, IEC – which only took over the club in November 2018 – complained on Friday that the “Latics” are underperforming on the pitch and that profitability has not “improved as expected”.

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It also raised concerns about Brexit, which was backed by 64% of Wigan voters in the 2016 referendum. The constituency is represented by Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy.

The statement addressing Brexit reads: “On top of the Club’s performance, the prospect of United Kingdom remain uncertain too.

Wigan Athletic players during a game at the club's DW Stadium last month (PA)

“The Board considers that the Brexit, which has formally effected on 31 January 2020, and the recent fallouts could have material long-term impact on the United Kingdom’s economy and the future growth of the country which may damage investors’ confidence on the country and also reduce local consumer spending, which could further deteriorate the performance of the Disposal Company.

“Therefore, the Directors is [sic] of the view that the Disposal could allow the Group to reallocate its resources to other business segments which are more profitable and crucial for the Group’s principal business and to capture suitable investment opportunities that might occur.”

Completion of the sale is “subject to the fulfilment of conditions”. The 2013 FA Cup winners are currently 22nd in the Championship, which is second division behind the Premier League in English football.

IEC’s concerns reflect the uncertainty businesses are still enduring over the UK’s departure from the EU.

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Britain is currently in a “transition period” in which it will negotiate its future relationship with the bloc, including a trade deal.

However, Boris Johnson has recently made noises about an “Australian-style” deal with the EU, despite no free trade deal existing between Australia and the EU.

Critics have picked up on the rhetoric as code for a no-deal Brexit, with the UK trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

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