Football: Whelan resigns as Wigan chairman, hands reins over to 23-year-old grandson

LONDON (REUTERS) - Long-serving Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan has resigned after 20 years in the job and put his 23-year-old grandson in charge, the Championship football club said on Tuesday.

"The time has now come to hand over the reins," Whelan, who helped the modest morth-west club from the foot of the old fourth division to the Premier League and to FA Cup glory, said in a statement.

"I am approaching 80 years old and spend an increasingly long time abroad, and cannot make it to games.

"It is a decision I have been mulling over for some years and I believe David is now ready."

Whelan, who founded the JJB sports store, was banned from all football activity for six weeks and fined £50,000 (S$76,800) in December for improper conduct.

He had described Chinese people as "chinks" and said Jewish people "chase money" in a newspaper interview. Whelan accepted the charge of improper conduct but denied making racist comments.

He was defending the appointment of Malky Mackay as manager of Wigan when he made his remarks. Mackay was under investigation at the time for sending allegedly racist text messages when manager of Cardiff City.

Whelan, who will continue to own the club, explained his comments again to Sky Sports.

"They said that I wasn't a racist, but they banned me for six weeks from going to a football match, I couldn't really understand what all that was about," he said. "I had no intention of insulting anyone, any race of people on the planet."