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Wigan & West Brom: Historic EFL & former-PL clubs in crisis

The ongoing crises at two historic EFL and former-Premier League clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic, has again shown how urgent the need for reform to football’s governance is.

Today Wigan Athletic received a second four point deduction from the EFL for financial mismanagement, after initially being issued a four point penalty for failing to pay its staff and players in March and May.

The EFL said: “The EFL has spent the past 48 hours in dialogue with the Club in an attempt to find a positive outcome to the issue but as of 9am Friday morning the required funds have not been deposited.”

A conglomerate of Wigan Athletic supporters, including FSA affiliates the Wigan Athletic Supporters Club, have called for immediate and decisive action to be taken at board and ownership level.

“With the players due to be paid twice during June, and other bills stacking up, we worry for the future of our club,” they said.

“Our confidence in the current board was already damaged by previous events.

“And we fear the small faith we had in their ability to return the club to a stable footing, and deliver on their promises to supporters, has now gone.”

Wigan, who finished bottom of the Championship table, will begin next season in League One on -8 points.

Trouble at the Hawthorns

Supporters at West Bromwich Albion have expressed serious concerns about the financial future of the club as they prepare for life after the end of their Premier League parachute payments next season and £20m loan to service.

Questions have been raised about the club’s ownership by Action for Albion, a supporter-led group pushing for answers. West Brom are owned by Group Ltd which has a sole director, Xu Ke – and at time of publishing has refused to meet with fan representatives or answer any questions from supporters (even minority shareholders).

Action for Albion said this week: “We are extremely disappointed at this decision, however in the wake of the refusal to answer any of the 38 questions that Shareholders 4 Albion submitted, we are not surprised in this stance.

“We are extremely frustrated that the sole Director of West Bromwich Albion Group will not discuss these issues with the fanbase we represent, and we do not accept that this is the correct way to deal with fans who ultimately have a real fear what is happening to the football club we love.”

The ongoing crises at Wigan Athletic and West Bromwich Albion are in addition to the existential threats posed to Southend United, who have been close to going out of business multiple times this season – but received a stay of execution at their last court appearance over a £2m funding gap.

What does the FSA think?

It is sad to see more of our community institutions and historic football clubs fall into entirely avoidable crises. We know from experience that whatever happens in the coming months, it will once again be supporters of the club who will be left to pick up the pieces.

We’ll continue to offer whatever help we to both clubs as their situations develop.

From the top to the bottom of the professional game this is more evidence of the need for implementation of the Fan-led Review’s findings. The time for proactive, robust and crucially independent regulation is long overdue.

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