Wigan Athletic surprised many people in English socccer on Tuesday when they announced that Chairman Dave Whelan will step down and be replaced by his 23-year-old grandson David Sharpe. Whelan had been at the helm for 20 years, and at age 78 he told media is was time for him to retire.
Whelan’s resignation came shortly after serving a six-week ban after making racist comments he made in an interview with English newspaper The Guardian.
Wigan’s board will elect Sharpe as the new chairman at a future date, and reports say that he will be assisted by Jonathan Jackson, who is the club’s chief executive. The Whelan family will stay in place as majority shareholders of Wigan, but Whelan won’t be a part of the daily operations.
“The time has come to hand over the reins. I am approaching 80 years old and spend an increasingly long time abroad, and cannot make it to games. It is a decision I have been mulling over for some years and I believe David is now ready,” Whelan said. “Contrary to some suggestions, there are no plans to sell the club, which will remain in family hands and I have every confidence that David, along with chief executive Jonathan Jackson, will lead us forwards with wisdom.”
Whelan played for Blackburn Rovers (1956 – 1960) and Crewe Alexandria (1962 – 1966) during his career. He bought Wigan in early 1995 and took them from being in the fourth tier to the Premier League in 2005. The team had an awkward season in 2013 when they won the FA Cup but found themselves relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season. Now the team is struggling in the Championship (second tier) and might very well be relegated down to League One.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to the board of directors, all the staff at the club, and of course the wonderful supporters of Wigan Athletic, who have helped make the journey over the past 20 years such an exciting and memorable one,” Whelan said.
His grandson, David Sharpe has a degree from Oxford University and Whelan seems to be confident that Sharpe can get the club back to its former glory. It will be a difficult task, and first and foremost the club must make sure they don’t get relegated. Wigan are currently nine points from safety with 12 games remaining.