Dave Whelan steps down as Wigan chair, “no plans” to sell club


Dave Whelan, chairman of Championship side Wigan, announced he has resigned his position following the acceptance of an FA charge for racial comments he made in regards to Malky Mackay’s hiring.

However, the 78-year-old said he will stay owner and “there are no plans to sell the club, which will remain in family hands” as Whelan appointed his grandson, 23-year-old David Sharpe, to the chairman position. Sharpe was made a director back in December.

“The time has now come to hand over the reins,” Whelan said in a statement. “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 hired Mackay in mid-November, the Scot’s first job since his tumultuous ending at Cardiff City that included an incident involving racial text messages. Whelan tried to play down the controversial hire, and in doing so not only justified Mackay’s racist texts but also made unpalatable comments of his own. The FA then fined him £50,000 and banned him for six weeks. He accepted the charge, and the FA said Whelan “is not a racist.”

Sharpe now inherits a club that is sitting in 23rd place in the Championship, a full nine points away from safety. Should they see themselves demoted to League One, Whelan’s resignation would mark the completion of a full bell curve of success for Wigan during his 20-year tenure. He purchased the club with Wigan in the basement of the Fourth Division and led the club to the Premier League within a decade. They spent eight straight seasons in the top flight before winning the 2013 FA Cup and being relegated in the same season.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez, who was in charge at Wigan during that FA Cup run, was informed of Whelan’s decision during his pre-match press conference ahead of Everton’s Premier League game tomorrow. Martinez said he was “shocked” and spoke highly of Whelan.

“I have been privileged to see first-hand how a successful and driven football man has given so much to the town and has created an incredible example for football,” Martinez said. “Any professional football club could have the dream of playing in the Premier League and winning a major trophy and he showed the way to do that. It is a great football story and I am sure it will inspire many generations to come.”