Roberto Martinez has called on the Football League to protect the professional pyramid following the debacle that has enshrined Wigan Athletic this week.
The Championship club was owned by the local Whelan family before it was sold to Hong Kong-based businessmen late in 2018. However, the club changed hands again, less than a month ago, and formally entered administration last week.
Former Latics boss Martinez – who stunned the nation to win the FA Cup with Wigan in 2013 – believes owners feel they have no responsibility to clubs and has urged the EFL to seek out “custodians” to lead clubs “with fans at the centre”.
The current Belgian national team manager spoke exclusively to RadioTimes.com ahead of appearing on Amazon Prime Video’s coverage of Everton v Southampton later this week.
Martinez said: “You feel that with any club that goes into administration you need to be worried until you find that new owner. You hope that Wigan Athletic can cover the fixtures left then go into a new era. But this is not normal.
“We’re used to seeing the Whelan family deal with adversity in football with an incredible responsibility – true custodians. You didn’t see ‘owners’ at Wigan Athletic, coming to make business decisions, they were closer to caring about the club and being attached at every level, and that’s why it’s sad.
“This is not normal, to have allowed owners to play with the future of football institutions. We’ve seen it this year, not just at Wigan, there’s been a couple of other clubs with owners and now the Football League needs to look into this situation and create something that is deeper than just a test of being ‘fit and proper’.
“To become an owner you must have a structure, to make you a custodian, and protect the football club for the long run.”
Martinez believes the UK pyramid is the envy of nations around the world, but that it faces an uncertain future unless more stringent processes are brought in to determine who will own football clubs in the future.
The Spanish coach suggested several ways in which owners could be held accountable for their actions without damaging football clubs if those decisions lead the club astray.
He said: “It goes down to having people who care about the clubs they’re getting involved in, and they understand them, and they can make them sustainable with the fans at the centre. From that point on you would see owners with the right intentions, and we need to do it by learning what has happened this week.
“You need to be able to understand the club, first and foremost. And second, to be able to work it in a sustainable manner. I do feel that there are solutions in other leagues where the owner has to have a bond in the bank that, when something goes wrong, that bond responds and maintains the near-future of that football club, that institution, with repercussions for the owner, but it doesn’t leave the club exposed.
“At the moment, you feel the owner doesn’t really need to get attached to what it means to those 100 years or so, to all the generations that have supported the football club, that represents a way of inspiring young people. Now is the time to protect these clubs.
“The British game has 92 professional clubs – that’s quite unique in Europe, maybe the world – and many nations would love to have this structure. Now I can see for the first time this pyramid is in a position where people gamble to find a route to the Premier League, I see there’s a real threat and a real danger of losing this wonderful football pyramid.”
You can watch Roberto Martinez feature during Everton v Southampton at 6pm Thursday 9 July for free on Amazon Prime Video, or fans can stream the game at no cost on Twitch.
If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.