Wigan Athletic have been relegated to League One after their appeal against a 12-point deduction for going into administration failed.
The crisis club had argued that the Covid-19 pandemic led to a ‘force majeure’ – unforeseen circumstances – which triggered the decision by their Hong Kong-based owner to pull the plug on funding.
They enlisted a QC to fight their case but an independent arbitration panel on Tuesday ruled that the punishment would stand.
The verdict means one of the club’s biggest assets, full-back Antonee Robinson, can now move for around £1.9million. The 22-year-old US international had been close to a £6m plus add-ons switch to AC Milan on transfer deadline day in January, which fell through after he failed a medical.
Championship rivals Barnsley had threatened legal action had Wigan been successful, given that they would have instead been relegated.
Wigan insiders say that the feeling within the club is that they received a fair hearing, but that they are ‘gutted’ with the result – first-team manager Paul Cook quit last week.
‘The players performed admirably to finish mid-table in the Championship and now a lot of them will end up on half the money in League One through no fault of their own,’ a source close to the situation explained.
Going into administration triggers an automatic 12-point penalty which is applied to the current season.
Sheffield Wednesday were docked 12 points for breaking spending rules which will be applied next season because the independent panel in their case could decide at their discretion.
The move may well speed up a takeover of Wigan, who remain in administration. It provides clarity to potential bidders of what outgoings they will face should they complete a deal.
It is understood that some of the interested parties preferred to see the club in League One thanks to the smaller level of outgoings competing in the third tier rather than the second brings.
‘The decision of the arbitration panel is final and legally binding,’ an EFL spokesperson said.
‘The EFL will continue to engage with the Administrators to provide its full support in all ongoing matters with the aim of achieving a long-term future for the club.’