MX23RW : Saturday, March 6 17:10:52| >> :600:291404:291404:

Dave Whelan steps down as chairman of Wigan Athletic

Dave Whelan leaves his role as Wigan Athletic chairman after 20 years at the club.

Dave Whelan has resigned as Wigan Athletic chairman after 20 years at the club.

The 78-year-old remains owner of the Championship side, but will no longer be involved in the day-to-day running of the club, handing the chairman role to his 23-year-old grandson David Sharpe.

In a club statement, Whelan said: "The time has now come to hand over the reins. 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.

"Contrary to some suggestions, there are no plans to sell the club, which will remain in family hands and I have every confidence that David, along with chief executive Jonathan Jackson, will lead us forwards with wisdom.

"In making this announcement, I would like to say huge thank you to the board of directors, all the staff at the club, and of course the wonderful supporters of Wigan Athletic, who have helped make the journey over the past 20 years such an exciting and memorable one."

Whelan's stepping down comes during a turbulent season for the both him and the Latics.

Last year, on New Year's Eve, he was banned from football activity for six weeks and fined £50,000 by the Football Association for making offensive comments about Chinese and Jewish people in a newspaper interview.

On the pitch, Wigan are in the thick of a relegation battle in the Championship as they look to avoid a second demotion in three seasons.

With 12 games of the season remaining, the Latics are nine points from safety and without a win at home since August.

The club's progress under Whelan on the whole, however, has been extremely successful.

When Whelan arrived the Latics were bottom of the old fourth division in February 1995 and a little over 10 years later they had achieved promotion to the top flight.

They spent eight years in the Premier League and went on to win the FA Cup, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final, just days before their relegation back to the Championship was confirmed in May 2013.

"The club would like to officially place on record its immense and everlasting gratitude for everything Dave Whelan has done for Wigan Athletic over the last two decades," Wigan added on their website.

"He has created a legacy that will last for many generations."

Wigan's first game without Whelan comes tomorrow when they travel to in-form Norwich City, who have won six games in a row. Their first home game, where there are sure to be plentiful tributes, is on Saturday against Leeds United.

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