Friday, 21 November 2014

Wigan Athletic Is A Very Democratic Club – I Will Make The Final Decision

That’s probably one of my favourite quotes from Mr Whelan, a former footballer who has transformed the fortunes of his local club, which saw them rise through the Football League and win the FA Cup. That should be his legacy, but his 20 years of hard work has almost been undone in the space of 48 hours as he has somehow got the club – and himself – involved in a ‘race scandal’. I can’t believe it has taken until now for the national media and the general public to see that Dave Whelan isn’t the ‘loveable old boy who broke his leg in a FA Cup Final’, that they liked to portray when it suited their agendas. However, he isn't the 'hard-nosed businessman' as he's known as in Wigan - he’s now ‘a racist old man, who isn’t fit to run a football club’.  It’s an incredible fall from grace for the man who has done so much for Wigan Athletic and the town in general.

The appointment of Malky MacKay, who is currently under investigation by the Football Association for sending a number of texts that were deemed to be of a ‘racist, sexist and anti-semitic nature’ has caused a ruckus that saw the national media descend upon Wigan on Wednesday afternoon. Since then, Whelan has unwittingly whipped up further controversy by trying to wave away the investigation into MacKay and explaining his view on the content of those messages. All he has done is to throw petrol onto that fire and the flames around him have been screaming ‘racist’ and ‘anti-semitic’ as his, the club’s and even Wigan’s reputation is fast burning away into ashes.

I literally don’t know how to expand my view on the appointment of MacKay, because like everyone else, I don't know the full facts. We appointed him whilst he was under investigation, which was wrong. He shouldn't have been appointed at this moment in time, as good as a coach that he is. But from a football point-of-view, we had to make the move for a new coach now and that’s probably what Whelan’s thinking was. He feels that he's got the best available coach for very little money - but the cost that we'll have to pay, goes far beyond money it seems. All we can do as supporters is to support the players and wait for any action/charges before deciding on our stance. I think it’s unfair to abandon the club at the moment – especially with sponsors pulling out, without any evidence, and the players need all the support they can get.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that Dave Whelan is racist. He’s just old-fashioned, misguided and just hasn’t developed his ways to adapt to the modern world as he’s grown older. He has let the club and its supporters down, by doing what he usually does – whatever Mr Whelan wants. It’s US who has to put up with the embarrassment of our club and town being raked through the mud by everyone and anyone – and with the reaction to his appointment and resulting comments, just proves that it just isn’t worth it. We may be a success on the pitch under MacKay, but will it harm the club in the long term? Would parents want their kids to go to games? Would parents let their kids to sign for the club? Would some players turn down a move to the club? How would sponsors react? All of those questions must have been in his thinking and I cannot believe that he still went ahead and appointed a man that is still being investigated for something that sickens so many people.

Personally, I would like Dave Whelan to step aside as Chairman now, or at least change how the club is run. He’s been magnificent for the club and nothing that I can say will sum up the feelings that I’ve had watching Latics over the last 20 years, but I feel that he needs to consider his own position in order to protect the club. Not just for this incident and the ill will it has caused, but also for his recent record with managers and the current plight of the club, because I can only see us going backwards due to his single-minded decisions. I must be one of very few Wigan Athletic supporters who didn’t agree with the sacking of Uwe Rosler - no matter how bad our form was, I believed that his long-term plan for the club was sound and had faith that he would turn things around eventually. Dave Whelan has shown on many occasions that he wants success in an instant and his short-termism has set the club backwards - and now, due to his comments, the reputation of the club (which has been that of a family club where everyone is welcome) has been ruined with recent developments. I’m not saying that he should sell the club (because let’s face it – who would buy it?) but to step aside as chairman or bring someone else in, like a director of football. Do something different, because whatever he’s doing, just isn’t working.

As much as I’m frustrated and upset at Dave Whelan, I believe that he had good intentions, despite them being presented poorly. I believe that the media (and to some extent, the football anti-racism group, Kick it Out) have been extremely unfair in their attempts to whip up a race-hate story when there isn’t one. MacKay ISN’T being investigated for racial abuse - he’s being investigated for some, admittedly ignorant, comments sent on a company phone. You don’t have to be a paid-up member of the National Front to make jokes about other races – it’s just an ignorant lack of understanding in that the jokes cause offence. His comments were out-of-order and in extremely bad taste, yes, but to say, or to strongly imply, that he is a racist (i.e. that he openly abuses and excludes people due to their racial background) without any evidence, is wrong. Kick it Out have also said that they believe that Whelan is unfit to run a football club, in an industry that allows convicted rapists and fraudsters to own clubs. It’s laughable and smacks of an organisation that is desperate to try and get their name back into the good books of a media who have slammed them in recent years for not doing enough when actual racism reared its ugly head. It’s interesting to note that during my research for this post, those journalists tarring Whelan and MacKay, giving the vague suggestion to readers that they may like to indulge in racism, are still upstanding for John Terry, who was found guilty by the FA for actual racial abuse. But even despite the evidence, he’s not a racist and is a family man, apparently. 

I’m not defending Whelan and MacKay (as you’ve already read – I’m not exactly keen myself at them being at the club) I just think it’s as ignorant to write the pair of them off as raving racists, as it is to send a few poor-taste ‘jokes’. Kick It Out may say that it’s symptomatic of people’s thinking, that they think it's okay to make jokes of that nature, I get that. But when you lack that education, that understanding of what people feel, why are people surprised when things like this happen? I’m not making excuses – a multi-millionaire businessman and a football manager should know better about this subject than the average person on the street – but education is the only way attitudes are going to change and (actual) racial abuse will stop. It was interesting to note then, that MacKay was more-or-less ridiculed by the media for saying at the press conference that he was going to ‘diversity classes’.

If he manages to weather this storm, Dave Whelan should stay away from the media from now on. He’s always been too accommodating to them and they’ve took advantage of that by portraying him as the caricature he has become (the whole tiresome ‘I broke my leg’ cracks – which Latics supporters have been saying for 15 years anyway – is another example of the media leading him up the steps and into a laughing stock). The problem is we don’t have anyone at the club who is able to tell him no and I fear he will be made into a more ridiculous caricature than he already is. He seems to believe that he can outwit the media and use them to produce positive results – in fact I believe there’s an element of that in his thinking with this situation, trying to take the pressure off his new manager. But Dave – you’re wrong. I do not trust your judgement anymore. You may not care what people think of you, but everyone else connected to the club is paying for it and it’s sending the club backwards.

Wigan Athletic isn’t a very democratic club – as Mr Whelan and Mr Whelan alone makes the final decision.