David Whelan (born 24 November 1936)[3] is an English businessman and former footballer. During his football career, he played for Blackburn Rovers and Crewe Alexandra. Whelan is the former owner of club Wigan Athletic, having also been the chairman of the club for twenty years, before passing the position over to his grandson, David Sharpe, who eventually passed the ownership over to International Entertainment Corporation.[4]

Dave Whelan
Dave Whelan, Wigan Athletic vs Hull City, 3rd May 2010.jpg
Whelan watching a Wigan Athletic match from the owner's box in May 2010.
Personal information
Full name David Whelan
Date of birth (1936-11-24) 24 November 1936 (age 85)
Place of birth Bradford, England
Position(s) Full back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1956–1960 Blackburn Rovers[1] 78 (3)
1962–1966 Crewe Alexandra[2] 115 (0)
Total 193 (3)
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Early lifeEdit

Whelan was born in Bradford, and raised in Wigan. His forebears hailed from County Tipperary, Ireland.

Football careerEdit

Whelan played 78 times as a left back, scoring three times, for Blackburn Rovers and was a member of its 1960 FA Cup Final team, which lost 3–0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Whelan himself did not complete the game, a feisty challenge from Whelan on Norman Deeley culminated in the Blackburn man being withdrawn before half time due to a broken leg. Whelan's injury is one of many serious injuries suffered by players in the 1950–60 era and was known as the Wembley hoodoo.[5] Following his leg break, Whelan was sold to Crewe Alexandra, where he made his debut on 23 February 1963 in a 4–0 first round League Cup defeat at Port Vale, and notched up 115 appearances through to April 1966.[6] He then retired to concentrate on developing a retail grocery business.


Whelan Discount StoresEdit

Whelan started out a market stall on Wigan market after working with Howarth Brothers on their stall in Blackburn. He later progressed into a grocers, before visiting America where he studied the self-service supermarket. He returned to England and set about creating a supermarket chain. By the late 1960s the business had 10 stores based across Lancashire.[7] In 1978 Whelan sold the business to Morrisons for £1.5 million.

JJB SportsEdit

Whelan acquired a Wigan based fishing and sports store JJ Bradburns in 1971. He continued to use the company name JJB Sports (JJB are the initials of the two previous owners John Jarvis Broughton, followed by J J Bradburn) and continued the retail of sports goods. By 1980, JJB had seven stores, and continued to expand throughout the 80s and 90s, to become the UK's second biggest sports retailer, focused mainly on sports clothing.

In 2005, JJB Sports was fined £5.5 million by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for fixing the price of the English National Team and Manchester United shirts in 2000 and 2001.[8] Which? (the Consumers' Association) issued proceedings against JJB, suing for damages on behalf of consumers affected by the price fixing. Whelan gradually scaled down his interests in the company, and in 2005 stepped down as chairman.[9] However, in October 2006, he personally intervened to overturn the settlement of a pay dispute at JJB's Wigan warehouse negotiated by new chairman Tom Knight, branding it "the equivalent of Communism", prompting a two-day strike.[10]

In January 2007 he sold £50m worth of shares in JJB,[11] before selling his remaining 29% stake in June 2007. This action was in breach of an agreement Whelan had with the stock exchange on 26 January 2007, whereby he undertook to make no further disposals for the following 12 months.[12][13]

DW Sports FitnessEdit

In March 2009, Whelan acquired back troubled JJB's nationwide chain of fitness clubs and stores. Wigan Athletic's stadium became the DW Stadium and their new sponsor, DW Sports Fitness, taking the initials of its owner and his new company.[14]

Wigan Athletic F.C.Edit

Whelan funded the DW Stadium, home of Wigan Athletic and Wigan Warriors

Whelan bought Wigan Athletic in February 1995, when they were a Division Three team.[15] After Whelan took the reins he announced that he would get Wigan Athletic into the Premier League, a promise he fulfilled in 2005. This began with the Division Three title in 1996–97, the Division Two title in 2002–03 and promotion to the Premiership as Championship runners-up in 2004–05. He funded the £30 million construction of the club's new JJB Stadium (now the DW Stadium) which opened in 1999 and on its completion was one of the largest football stadiums outside the Premier League.[16]

Wigan, who were tipped to be relegated from the Premier League in their first season, not only managed to stay up (and remained in the top flight for eight years), but claimed a 10th place league position[17] and also reached the final of the Football League Cup.[18]

In 2005, Whelan threatened to quit the club unless the price of policing games was reduced.[19]

In 2007, he called for the relegation of West Ham United as punishment for their incorrect registration of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.[20] He subsequently called for Premier League Chairman Dave Richards and chief executive Richard Scudamore to resign.[21]

An arbitration committee met to consider the affair. It ruled in favour of the Premier League. Wigan managed an end-of-season victory at Sheffield United, a 2–1 win with the goals being scored by Paul Scharner in the 14th minute and a penalty from David Unsworth in injury time of the first half, after Jon Stead had equalised for Sheffield United in the 38th minute. It was a dramatic final-day Premiership survival story, with the result saving Wigan and condemning Sheffield United to the Championship.[22]

On 11 May 2013, in a dramatic ending to the FA Cup Final against Manchester City, Ben Watson scored a header in the 91st minute to win the game 1–0. This was Wigan's first major trophy in their Premier League history and gave Whelan the chance to hold the FA Cup trophy, 53 years after breaking his leg as a 1960 finalist.[22] Three days later, a defeat to Arsenal saw Wigan relegated to the Championship, ending a spell of eight years in the Premier League. On 3 March 2015, Whelan stepped down as chairman, appointing his 23-year-old grandson, David Sharpe, as the new chairman.

Wigan WarriorsEdit

After the announcement of Maurice Lindsay's intention to retire immediately from the club after the Warriors' loss at the hands of Catalans Dragons on 29 July 2007, Whelan managed to persuade him to stay on until the end of the season. After the announcement of Lindsay's retirement however, Whelan said he would be willing to sell the club after a proposed takeover from a "genuine Wigan fan" earlier in the year.[23]

On 24 October 2007, it was announced that Ian Lenagan, former owner of Harlequins RL, had completed his takeover of Wigan Warriors, buying out Whelan's 89% stake in the club with the deal taking effect from 1 December 2007.[24]

Orrell Rugby Union ClubEdit

Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club Chairman Maurice Lindsay and business tycoon Dave Whelan, the then owner of the JJB Sports empire, had already been making noises about forming a rugby union side. Initial contact was made via Whelan's Finance Director Simon Moorehead and an exciting night saw the members promised £10,000,000 investment over 5 years, with Mr Whelan expressing the dream to be drinking red wine away to Toulouse in the European Cup in the not-too-distant future. Wide-eyed, and with these promises of future success, the members reluctantly sold their shares in the club for £1,000 each, to the new owners, with Lindsay becoming the club's new Chairman.[25]


A supporter of the Conservative Party, Whelan has donated in total £1.5 million to the party since 2007, with his most recent donation of £100,000 made in August 2014.[26] He said David Cameron had his full support.[27]

In 2013, he called for a mandatory minute's silence at all football games to mark the death of Margaret Thatcher. The Football Association rejected the proposal.[28]


In November 2014, Whelan was accused of making antisemitic statements, following an interview he gave The Guardian, defending his decision to hire Malky Mackay as manager of Wigan. Mackay was under investigation by the FA for alleged racism and antisemitism in e-mails and text messages he sent while manager of Cardiff City. During the interview, Whelan was quoted as saying "Jewish people chase money more than everybody else."[29] The statements were condemned by West Ham United co-chairman David Gold and former FA and Premier League executive Simon Johnson, both of whom are Jewish.[30] Whelan was also accused of racist attitudes by defending Mackay's alleged referral to Chinese people as "chinks". Cardiff City owner, Vincent Tan, who is Malaysian Chinese, said of Whelan, "I think he has insulted the dignity of the Chinese".[31] Whelan later apologised for his remarks.[32] Anti-racist organisation Kick It Out offered support to Whelan, saying that they had a responsibility to ensure that people of his age would understand "modern expectations".[33]

Whelan threatened to leave his position at Wigan if the FA found him guilty of racism.[34] At the first match since the controversy, on 22 November against Middlesbrough, he was applauded by Wigan fans as he took his seat in the DW Stadium.[35]

On 27 November, the FA charged Whelan with an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 [2], as his comments had included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief".[36] He was given a six-week ban and fined £50,000 on 31 December, although the FA investigation concluded that he was neither a racist nor had intended to cause offence.[37] In March the following year, Whelan resigned his position as Wigan chairman, naming as replacement his grandson, David Sharpe, with the Whelan family remaining as majority shareholders.[38]


Football-related honoursEdit


  1. ^ Profile, neilbrown.newcastlefans.com/blackburn; accessed 9 December 2014.
  2. ^ Profile, neilbrown.newcastlefans.com/crewe; accessed 9 December 2014.
  3. ^ Herbert, Ian (11 May 2013). "FA Cup final: Dave Whelan discusses the ups and downs of his amazing journey with Wigan ahead of Wembley showdown against Manchester City". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Dave Whelan: Wigan Athletic chairman resigns". BBC Sport. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  5. ^ Wembley Hoodoo The Guardian
  6. ^ Crisp, Marco (1998). Crewe Alexandra: Match by Match. Tony Brown. pp. 94–97, 153. ISBN 1899468811.
  7. ^ "FA Cup final: Wigan's Whelan makes poignant Wembley return - BBC Sports Website p.9 May 2015". BBC Sport. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  8. ^ Simon Bowers (20 May 2005). "JJB fights on despite cut in replica kit fine". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Julia Finch (7 July 2005). "JJB chief steps down to spend more time with Wigan". The Guardian.
  10. ^ Susie Measure (26 October 2006). "'Communist' jibe by JJB founder incites strike". The Independent.
  11. ^ Katie Allen (26 January 2007). "Wigan's gain JJB chief sells shares". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Whelan sells stake in JJB Sports". BBC News. 8 June 2007.
  13. ^ James Hall (10 June 2007). "Whelen faces Financial Services Authority investigation". The Daily Telegraph.[dead link]
  14. ^ Pete Hayman (31 March – 15 April 2009). "Whelan confirms £3.4m deal for JJB fitness clubs" (PDF). leisureopportunities.co.uk.
  15. ^ "Wigan Athletic: 1995–98 – THE WHELAN ERA BEGINS". Wiganlatics.co.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  16. ^ "JJB Stadium". The Stadium Guide. 4 August 1999. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Premier League | History | 2005/06 Season". Premier League. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Man Utd ease to Carling Cup glory". BBC Sport. 26 February 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  19. ^ "Whelan quit threat over policing". The Guardian. London, UK. 7 March 2005. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Whelan calls for new Tevez charge". BBC News. 14 May 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Whelan demands league chiefs quit". BBC News. 17 May 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  22. ^ a b "Late Watson winner stuns Mancini's men in cup final". Goal.com. 11 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  23. ^ "Maurice Lindsay Announces His Intention to Step Down at the End of this Season". Wigan Warriors Official Website. 30 July 2007. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  24. ^ "Lenagan seals takeover of Wigan". BBC Sport. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  25. ^ "Orrell deal opens door for Whelan". The Daily telegraph. 3 August 2001.
  26. ^ "Dave Whelan controversy: Wigan chairman threatens to resign if he's punished by FA" by Rory Dolland, Manchester Evening News, 22 November 2014
  27. ^ "Wigan tycoon gives £1m to Tories", BBC News, 27 September 2007
  28. ^ Gibson, Owen (9 April 2013). "Dave Whelan requests minute's silence in memory of Baroness Thatcher". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  29. ^ "Dave Whelan accused of antisemitism in new controversy". TheGuardian.com. 21 November 2014.
  30. ^ Dave Whelan: Wigan owner accused of anti-Semitism
  31. ^ "Vincent Tan accuses Dave Whelan and Malky Mackay of being racist". BBC Sport. 21 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  32. ^ "Wigan owner Dave Whelan apologises for anti-semitic remarks, saying he has' hundreds of Jewish friends'". Daily Telegraph. London. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  33. ^ "Dave Whelan: Kick It Out offers to help under-fire Wigan owner". BBC Sport. 23 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  34. ^ "Dave Whelan: Wigan chairman to quit if FA finds him guilty of racism". BBC Sport. 22 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  35. ^ "Wigan 1–1 M'boro". BBC Sport. 22 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  36. ^ "Dave Whelan: FA charges Wigan chairman for newspaper comments". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  37. ^ "Dave Whelan: Wigan owner given six-week ban and fine by the FA". BBC Sport. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  38. ^ "Dave Whelan resigns as Wigan chairman and names grandson as successor". The Guardian. 3 March 2015.
  39. ^ "Honorary Freemen of the Borough".
  40. ^ "It's Doctor Whelan! - Wigan Today". Archived from the original on 22 July 2015.
  41. ^ "Honorary Doctorates". Archived from the original on 24 September 2018.

External linksEdit

  • Brief bio, Manchesteronline.co.uk; accessed 9 December 2014.