Inspired by Spanish club, Wigan Athletic look into Chinese player market

26 March 2019

Wigan
Photo: Getty Images Wigan Athletic chairman Darren Royle are ready to look into the Chinese player market to make full use of the opportunities created by Hong-Kong owner based IEC.

Wigan Athletic keen to have a Chinese player in their first-team squad after Hong-Kong takeover.

Club is inspired by Spain’s Espanyol, who bought player Wu Lei in January. 

Christian Fomsgaard Jensen cfj@offthepitch.com

Wigan Athletic are looking into the Chinese player market to make full use of the opportunities created by the takeover by Hong-Kong based IEC, the Wigan Post reports.  

The club should at least consider bringing in a Chinese player, chairman Darren Royle told the paper. 

However, he emphasised that it would not be done as a publicity stunt, saying the player should be able to justify a spot in the first team on his footballing abilities and not his passport. 

“We’d love to have somebody who Paul Cook would rate highly enough to have in the first-team squad from that neck of the woods,” Royle said to the Wigan Post. 

Inspiration from Spain

The chairman has also found inspiration from Spanish club Espanyol, who bought Chinese Super League all-time top scorer Wu Lei in January. 

“I know the commercial director at Espanyol very well, and they’ve got the only Chinese player in La Liga,” he told the newspaper. 

“They got something like 40 million views for his debut, so there is obviously a huge significance involved.” 

Big interest from the Far East

The Hong-Kong based consortium took charge of Latics in November 2018, putting Royle in place as executive chairman of the club. 

Since the IEC takeover, there has been a great deal of interest in the Latics from the Far East, and the club are looking into future tours and trips to that part of the world. 

“The Hong Kong branch of the Wigan Athletic Supporters Club is already established, so we’ve something to build on!” Royle told the paper. 

Reported a net loss of £7.7 million for their 2017/18 Sky Bet League One title-winning season

The club reported a net loss of £7.7 million for their 2017/18 Sky Bet League One title-winning season compared to a £4.3 million profit the year before, but the November takeover marks a new era for the club with new possibilities in the Far East. 

However, IEC taking control of the club was a long process. The two parties agreed a deal in May 2018 and IEC paid a deposit of £1.5 million, but the deal was not finalised till November 2018, when chairman David Sharpe stepped down. 

Sharpe took over as chairman from his grandfather David Whelan and the club had been in the family’s hands for 23 years.