Football crazy


Arguably Wigan’s biggest claim to fame is that it doesn’t have a pier – but that many think it does because George Orwell named his famed book on poverty The Road to Wigan Pier. Asked on the radio about this, the writer said: “I must tell you that Wigan Pier doesn’t exist. I made a journey specially to see it in 1936 and I couldn’t find it.”

In China, Wigan ranks as one of the less likely cities the nation’s tourists might visit, even those curious about piers. But those numbers might increase now that a Chinese has bought its football club Wigan Athletic. The BBC reported last week that the Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Consortium (IEC) will buy the club from the Whelan family. IEC is controlled by Stanley Choi, a lesser known Hong Kong tycoon who claims to be friends with Jack Ma and to be a world class poker player. According to HK01 his company’s main source of income is casinos in the Philippines.

Wigan becomes the latest English club to be Chinese-owned – though it will only play next season in the second-tier Championship. Fosun-owned Wolves, on the other hand, will play Premiership football having won the Championship this season. Guo Guangchang’s punt on the Midlands club looks to have been astute now that the club will return to England’s big money top league.

Guo has been a keen buyer of foreign assets over the past eight years (we reported on his first major purchase – a stake in Club Med – in WiC70). The latest deal to complete is his acquisition of luxury Austrian hosiery maker Wolford. That transaction closed last week and follows Fosun’s $120 million purchase of French brand Lanvin.

Back on the topic of football, there is a possibility that another Chinese-owned club will join Fosun’s Wolves in the top flight. Tony Xia-owned Aston Villa are in the play-off final, where a victory over Fulham later this month could see the Birmingham club play Premiership football in the forthcoming season.

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