Steven Caulker accuses Wigan of lying after four failures to pay players’ wages

The Wigan defender Steven Caulker has hit out at the club’s hierarchy, accusing them of lying and “absolutely scandalous” behaviour after he and his teammates failed to receive their wages four times this season.

Wigan’s players were absent from training on Friday in protest at the club’s financial crisis, which has already led to them being hit with a three-point deduction by the English Football League. The uncertainty at the Championship’s bottom-placed club has now led to one of their senior players speaking out in the strongest terms.

“The lies us as players have been told by Wigan is absolutely scandalous,” said Caulker, the former Tottenham, QPR, Liverpool and England centre-back. “There may be reason for late payment once or twice, but for the boys to have experienced this five times [sic] this season is completely unacceptable.

“We are told as players every day that the money is on its way and will ‘hopefully’ reach our account by the afternoon. Fourteen days later, the money hasn’t arrived. Furthermore, what is more concerning is that we are due to be paid again on 7 April and the club are unable to confirm whether they will have enough funds for this.

“Since I arrived at this club [in January] I have seen the players and backroom staff work tirelessly to try to keep this club in the Championship. It’s really painful to now see that task become harder and harder each day. As the famous saying goes ‘Being silent while witnessing an injustice makes you guilty of the oppression as well’. Well my position is clear, I stand with the honest hard-working staff and players, whose mental health is now being affected by this.”

Caulker’s intervention was soon followed by a joint statement from Wigan’s players. It read: “We are all proud to play for Wigan Athletic Football Club and we recognise that it has been a difficult season for the club in terms of results and performances on the pitch. With a lot of speculation in the media surrounding the club off the pitch, we want to clarify the current position we find ourselves in. We haven’t been paid our wages this month and they are now two weeks overdue. To add to that, we have been given inaccurate information on numerous occasions about when the outstanding wages would be paid and this isn’t the first time this has happened to us this season.

“The disrespect that this shows all members of staff at the club isn’t acceptable and it needs to change. We are now closer to next month’s pay and the staff at this club need reassuring that the situation will change. This isn’t just about the players, this is about the financial security and wellbeing of every member of our WAFC family that work at the club. We need the owners of the club to show this commitment and respect to the staff and the fans.”

The Bahraini businessman Abdulrahman al-Jasmi fronted a takeover of Wigan, FA Cup winners a decade ago, in 2021 after they had gone into administration in the summer of 2020. A Wigan spokesperson said: “We are still waiting on the players’ wages and that’s no secret. Naturally from a coach’s point of view it’s the correct decision and today’s training session has been pushed back to Monday. The players are not going to be in the right mental state, given they are still waiting on wages.

“The fact there is no game this week with the international break and then we play QPR next Saturday … it is the correct decision.”

Late on Friday Wigan chairman Talal Al Hammad announced the club’s players have now finally been paid.

In an open letter to supporters, Al Hammad wrote: “I can now confirm our players’ wages have been paid. I can only apologise for the delay and the stress it’s caused the players and staff involved as well as you, the fans and wider stakeholders. This issue has now been resolved and I can assure you that the late payment of wages will not happen again. It simply cannot happen again.”

Al Hammad also revealed that chief executive Malachy Brannigan has left the club. Wigan are eight points from safety with eight games of the Championship season remaining.