Latics in the Danger Zone
In today`s Daily Telegraph there is the annual Deloitte and Touche review of Premier League finances.
Their assessment of Latics:
'Wigan sustained a £14 million deficit in 2007 as their revenue did not match their wages even closely. They are squarely in the 'danger level' of cost management"
Manchester Utd are reported as earning more in two home games than we did all season.
Whilst this is cause for concern there are hopes for the future as well as warning signs.
First the bad news
We have the lowest average annual gates in the premier league and struggle to sell out the stadium even with the cheapest prices in the premier league.
With the proposed closure of ES1 there will be a reduction in the capacity of the stadium and therefore a loss of income.
We are heavily dependent on the commitment of the Whelan family and there are obvious questions as to what will happen when he decides to step down in the future, will a family member take over or will we be put up for sale and who would buy us? Remember Gretna
Our viability depends upon us staying in the Premier League and to do that we have to pay out large wages to attract players to little Wigan.
Now the good news.
We have the smallest catchment area of all Premier League clubs and the vast majority of our fans come from the Wigan, Ashton and Skelmersdale area, other clubs draw fans from all around the country .
This makes it easier to target the local fans and therefore link in with local sponsors etc.
We also have the largest number of under 16 year old season ticket holders and if we can continue to remain in the premier league we will continue to build our fan base for the future.
We have the cheapest season ticket prices in the league and so can attract floating fans that cannot get tickets for the bigger clubs surrounding us.
So what do we need to do to develop our fan base?
The first is to ensure continuing premier league status and build towards a mid table side.
Steve Bruce in his short tenure at the club has transformed us from being relegation fodder into a side that fights for every point and is capable of getting points of every other club.
The proposed signings bode well for the team on the pitch.
We need to develop a marketing strategy.
We have a supporters club of over 70 in Norway, has the club made any links with them, do we offer packages including tickets and hotel accommodation to encourage them to come and watch us?
We also play in the most watched league in the world. The television audience for the United game is evidence of that. We need to launch a promotion campaign in Scandinavia and the Benelux countries to entice fans to come and watch us.
I flew to Amsterdam from Liverpool at the end of March; there were hundreds of Liverpool fans going back to Europe.
If they can do it, we can tap into their passion for the Premier League also.
We also need to simplify the purchasing of tickets.
I witnessed a local woman being turned down from buying tickets for the Reading game despite giving a local address because she wasn`t on the database. It is unlikely that having faced this rejection she will come back again.
The farce around the missing Manchester United tickets and the clubs refusal to supply replacements as a good will gesture also tainted our reputation. With Royal Mail and TNT both denying responsibility it appears no one is going to be held to account for the problem.
This is unacceptable.
We need to actively court the publicity, a couple of weeks ago there was an article in a national Sunday supplement which was less than complimentary to the club.
Have we challenged it?
I wrote to a newspaper a few years ago when an article which revolved around our low gates showed a picture of the away fans the implication being that this was the Latics fans. I copied the club into the letter hoping that they would challenge the paper.
Too often we are the butt of lazy journalism; we need to accentuate the positives of Wigan Athletic.
It is a great family club and we need to show that to the world.
Latics stand on the cusp of becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League. Mid table aspirations are no longer fanciful but a credible aspiration.
We need to "seize the moment" and sell the club to the world.
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