Online Operator bids £15m for Wigan Athletic

A £15m bid to acquire Wigan Athletic FC has been linked to the K8 Group, a network of online gambling companies operating in over 50 countries that is based in the Philippines.

The logo is the group’s sports betting arm. © Schalke 04

Initial reports in the UK media found that a bid to acquire the club was being readied by a group of Chinese investors. Last week, The Sun were the first to report that the bid came from the Philippines-based online betting operator

Wigan Athletic are currently in League One, the third tier of UK football. The news of the takeover has been fairly well received at the club, with hopes that the takeover will rejuvenate the club. Vincent Huang, CEO of the K8 group, is reported to have visited the area to support the acquisition and meet with key figures.

Other than the current amount of the bid, the terms of the deal are not known. K8 will of course receive increased exposure to the UK market with the acquisition of the club, but could also look to print their name on the club’s shirt and rename the stadium. Top-level positions, such as the chairman, could also be set for a shakeup. an ever-increasing presence in UK football already has many times to English football and especially the Premier League. The firm was the official shirt sponsor of West Bromwich Albion, after penning a deal with the club in 2016. The brand is also the official betting partner of Manchester City and Cardiff City FC for the 2017/18 season.

However, ownership of a football club by a betting firm is a step further and will set a precendent that will raise many questions around conflict of interest and other issues. While stumping up the fee will be no problem for the group, the terms must be approved by the Football League before any deal can be struck and massive scrutiny is expected.

However, there are already examples of betting firms owning football clubs. Stoke City are currently owned by bet365, while fellow Premier League team Brighton & Hove Albion are owned by poker player and betting consultancy owner Tony Bloom.

The relationship between gambling firms and football clubs is under the spotlight at the moment. The opposition Labour party recently pledged to end betting companies sponsoring football teams and will likely strongly oppose this takeover too.

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