Monday, July 30, 2007


It's German, dontcha know. Roughly translated it means "shameful joy", and its primary English use is as a term to describe finding fun in the misfortune of others.

Very popular around the north of England (and south of France for that matter) at the moment, thanks to the defeat of Wigan Warriors by Catalan Dragons in the Challenge Cup semi final this Sunday.

It's fair to say Wigan weren't the public favourites going into the game, for a variety of reasons. For a large chunk of the last decade of the 20th century, they swept all before them in both League and Cup, signing all the best players and paying them wages that no other team could compete with as they went on an unprecedented winning spree. Call it jealousy if you like, but the arrogance shown by the club and its fans over that period made them less than popular.

While success has been less easy to come by during the summer era, they've still found ways to make themselves unpopular. Running up a massive debt, the club was forced to sell its traditional Central Park home and move into the JJB Stadium with the local football club. There still lingers the perception that there is one rule for Wigan and one for everyone else, whether it's when their players visit the disciplinary panel for on-field indiscretions or the club itself being hauled over the coals for a flagrant breach of the salary cap in 2006, a year in which they narrowly avoided relegation by spending significantly more than they were allowed on wages.

When you're unpopular, it helps to have someone fronting the club to the media and general public who is likeable enough to deflect some of the flak. Unfortunately for Wigan, lately that job has fallen to Dave Whelan and Maurice Lindsay. The bluff, uncompromising (until it suits his principles) owner and his chairman - who possesses all the personal charm you'd get in the camp offspring of Joyce Grenfell and Baron Greenback from Dangermouse - aren't going to do Max Clifford out of a job when it comes to generating positive PR. It should come as no surprise then that the rugby league public have taken great delight in kicking the club while it's down.

It seems that this may have been the final straw, as Lindsay has announced today that he is stepping down as chairman at the end of the season and Whelan is considering a serious offer for the club. There's no doubt Lindsay played a significant part in making Wigan the club it is now - whether you consider that to be a good or a bad thing depends on how you look at it. There will be no shortage of people prepared to slam the door after the pair of them however, and it remains to be seen how long it will take to remove the taint off the image of the club that their era will be predominantly remembered for.

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