Inside the Wembley week of Wigan Warriors owner Mike Danson following Challenge Cup triumph

Ben Olawumi
Mike Danson, Wigan lift Challenge Cup in 2024

Mike Danson has not sought the limelight since taking ownership of Wigan Warriors in December, but is ‘massively engaged’ behind the scenes, and on Saturday tasted Challenge Cup success for the first time. We take you inside his Wembley week, with the aid of CEO Kris Radlinski.

Local businessman Danson – who now also owns Wigan Athletic FC – has been a shareholder in the Warriors since 2020, but officially took full ownership of the reigning Super League champions on December 1, 2023.

By then, he’d already seen Matt Peet’s side win the League Leaders’ Shield and Super League crown, and in February, they went on to be crowned champions of the world with victory against Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge.

Returning to Wembley for the first time since 2017, where they hadn’t won since 2013, Wigan had the chance to write their names firmly into the history books by becoming the third team in the summer era to hold all four major honours at once.

They did just that, beating Warrington Wolves 18-8 under the arch to lift the Challenge Cup for the second time in Peet’s tenure, only at the halfway mark of his third season at the helm.

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Inside the Wembley week of Wigan Warriors owner Mike Danson following Challenge Cup triumph

But days before Zach Eckersley, Bevan French & Liam Farrell were crossing for tries in the capital, boyhood Warriors fan Danson was among the most nervous of those involved at Robin Park.

And he wasn’t alone, despite the Cherry & Whites having lifted the cup in 2022 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Speaking post-match on Saturday, Warriors CEO Radlinski detailed: “Wembley  means a lot to Matt (Peet).

“Tottenham was amazing, but this is the one for Matt having grown up and come to Wembley (to watch Wigan). I’ve sensed a few nerves on him this week, which is great.

“Mike (Danson)’s never won at Wembley either, so I’ve sensed him being a bit nervous this week.

“He must have phoned me six or seven times every day asking about how we’re going to cope with the bans, how Matt was and everything, so he’s been very engaged! It’s been an exciting week for him.”

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 ‘You could tell he was really nervous about the game’

Skip forward to Friday evening, less than 24 hours until kick-off at Wembley, and Danson’s nerves hadn’t eased a great deal.

He had though made a very poignant call and asked if it would be possible for club legend Billy Boston to lead the Warriors out at Wembley.

Boston is now 89, but remains an icon to everyone of a Warriors persuasion – including the owner – having scored 478 tries in 487 games donning their shirt.

Radlinski continued: “We went out for dinner last night – me, Mike and the chairman (Professor Chris Brookes) took all the players’ wives out for dinner last night (Friday).

“We had a good night. Mike’s not really met a lot of them, so we spent some time with him last night, but you could tell he was really nervous about the game.

“But Billy Boston walking out, he (Mike) selected that because Billy is one of his heroes. We needed to make sure Billy was up to it, so the chairman went around and spent some time with him, but it’s an owner’s prerogative to make that call.

“The whole tradition, the whole experience of Wembley is very much part of Mike’s upbringing, so this was a big day for him.”

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‘Being a world champion and winning at Wembley, you can’t buy these things… he was buzzing’

So, onto gameday. Wigan and Warrington both saw a man sin-binned early on, with the Wolves taking a 2-0 lead courtesy of a Josh Thewlis penalty.

But once young gun Eckersley got a first try of the afternoon for Peet’s side midway through the first half, they never looked back, and it ended up a more comfortable watch for Danson & co. than the 18-8 scoreline may suggest.

Radlinski said: “I sat just behind him. During the game, he was a bit twitchy and everything, but being a world champion and winning at Wembley, you can’t buy these things. They are experiences.

“He’s very much part of it now and he’s enjoyed it – he was buzzing. We got him onto the field and he held the trophy.

“His son was there and his mum & wife were in the crowd – they were on the front row of the Royal Box, and it means a lot to him.

“He was glowing at the end, it was great. We’ll spend some time with him tonight (Saturday) and the players will see him in a different light as well, so that’s going to be great.

“He’s massively engaged, and that’s exciting.”

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