Wigan Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan shares heartfelt message after decision to step down at end of season

Drew Darbyshire
Ian Lenagan Wigan Warriors SWpix

Wigan Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan lifting the Challenge Cup in 2022

Wigan Warriors chairman and owner Ian Lenagan has announced that he will step down from his roles at the end of the season.

After 16 years of Lenagan family ownership of the club, he will officially resign on November 30, 2023.

Having been involved with a shareholding since the summer of 2020, Mike Danson, who also owns Wigan Athletic Football Club, will become 100 per cent owner of the Warriors, purchasing the remaining 51 per cent of the Lenagan shares on December 1, 2023.

Professor Chris Brookes will become the club’s new chairman having recently been appointed vice chairman following on from a 40-year career in the NHS.

Lenagan, 77, initially bought the club from Dave Whelan at the end of 2007, leading the club into the 2008 campaign.

In his time in charge of the club, Wigan won four Super League titles, three Challenge Cups, three League Leaders’ Shields and a World Club Challenge.

Lenagan has worked with head coaches Michael Maguire, Shaun Wane, Adrian Lam and Matt Peet – all of whom have delivered trophies and success to the Cherry and Whites.

The Wigan-born owner also oversaw moving the club’s headquarters to Robin Park Arena, creating a centre of excellence for all the teams, backroom and office staff under one roof for the first time.

Ian Lenagan posts emotional message upon announcing his resignation

Ian Lenagan said: “I have a strong memory of walking down to Central Park aged about 9-years-old with my brother Tony and my Grandfather Tom Moran, beyond excited as always, to see my favourite Wigan players of the day: Billy Boston, Eric Ashton and Brian McTigue – all magical names to any Cherry and Whites supporter of a certain age.

“I was reminded of that moment at the recent Wigan v Saints game at the DW Stadium 68 years later reflecting that my time supporting and then leading this club which has been a central part of my life, would soon be coming to an end.

“It barely seemed possible that a young lad from Scholes, whose only dream was to see his beloved Wigan team lift trophy after trophy, would many years later be able to do that from such a lofty and privileged position.

“When the opportunity to own Wigan Warriors appeared I could scarcely believe it.

“It was always my ideal once I got involved with running London Broncos and I was as keen then to regenerate Wigan’s position of being a standard bearer for excellence in professional sport, on and off the field, as I still am today.

“The five coaches I’ve worked with – Brian Noble, Michael Maguire, Shaun Wane, Adrian Lam and Matt Peet – plus some fantastic players in George Carmont, Sam Tomkins, Pat Richards, Michael McIlorum, Sean O’Loughlin and Tommy Leuluai to name a few personal favourites, have all played their part in giving so many people some magnificent memories. Super Leagues, Challenge Cups, World Club Challenges at home and in Australia, Barcelona, Wembley and of course Tottenham last year.

“Being able to share all the experiences, some uplifting, some heartbreaking, with my family, with heroes I previously could only admire as a fan and with the people of the town where I was born and raised, means more to me than many of you will ever know. They have provided many signposts for my life for the past 16 years.

“I have had the pleasure of making great friendships through rugby league at Wigan, in France, with other clubs’ directors and fans and within Super League and the RFL generally.

“I feel rugby league is now in a strong position to grow again with a better structure, strong owners and the IMG relationship.

“I’m pleased to have been the custodian of Wigan Warriors for 16 years and particularly in its celebratory 150th year.

“Custodianship also brings the responsibility to find your successor and in Mike Danson, someone I’ve grown to know and like a great deal over the last three years, I believe the club’s future will be in the best of hands with his history as a long-term supporter of Wigan Warriors.

“His humility and steely resolve to continue the tradition we all contribute to and appreciate the value of, is based on true Wigan resolve.

“I’d like to thank all of the Wigan staff that have given everything they have, often at great cost, through challenging times.

“My time at Wigan has been helped by the amazing support and unending loyalty from my PA, Mandy Johnston, and from the sterling efforts of David Moore as finance director and Wayne Joyce as operations director. I’d also like to pass on my best wishes to Chris Brookes as incoming chairman.

“But my highest praise of all rests with Kris Radlinski who I have been delighted to see develop from being one of my favourite Wigan players into one of the best chief executives in Super League. The pleasure of mentoring him in the early days, winning and losing, financial uncertainty, the trials of the Covid years and the relaunch afterwards of the new identity, and the Robin Park headquarters has been very special.

“Perhaps the only true test of any retiring ownership is how the club is left for those that come next.

“With more teams than ever, a world-class training facility, thriving education and community programmes and peace of mind about where we play, I’d like to think that the club is in a good place, ready to challenge consistently on the field and to play its part in a new future for sport in Wigan and the surrounding area.

“Finally, I’d like to thank all the Wigan Warriors supporters and that small group of private shareholders for their unerring support during my time as owner and chairman. Perhaps that has given me the proudest feelings of all.

“It is something that the 9-year-old boy who ended up living his own Wigan Rugby League dream will be grateful for always.”

Incoming Wigan Warriors owner Mike Danson to Lenagan

Danson said: “As I have got to know Ian over the past three years it is clear how much this great club means to him and his family.

“He has been a fantastic custodian of the club and a strong advocate for this wonderful game at all levels.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Warriors thrive under Ian’s stewardship, both on and off the pitch, and I’m honoured and grateful to be taking on the responsibility as the club’s custodian.

“We will do everything we can to bring success and honour to the Warriors and to make our loyal supporters proud.”

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