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DW Sports falls into administration, putting 1,700 jobs at risk

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
·2-min read
Wigan Chairman Dave Whelan announces the renaming of the JJB Stadium during a media call at the JJB Stadium, Wigan.
DW Sports Fitness was founded by former Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan. Photo: PA

DW Sports Fitness, the gym and sports retailer founded by former Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan, collapsed into administration on Monday, putting around 1,700 jobs across the UK at risk.

The chain blamed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and pointed to the impact of government restrictions on its entire business.

While all of its 75 fitness stores will close, the company said that it would work with the administrators to keep many of its 73 gym locations open.

DW Sports Fitness had already announced the closure of 25 of its stores. The remaining 50 outlets will “all be moving into closing down sales from today,” the company said. Its website has also ceased trading.

The company said that, having “exhausted all other available options,” it believed that the administration process could allow it to restructure the business and protect the “maximum number” of jobs.

READ MORE: New UK manufacturing orders rise at fastest pace since 2018

While some 59 of its gyms have reopened in England and Northern Ireland, government restrictions mean that it cannot reopen a further 14 gyms in England, Scotland, and Wales.

The administrators said that they hoped to support employees, customers, and gym members until a buyer is found for some or all of the company’s portfolio.

Sister company Fitness First, which has 43 clubs in the UK, is unaffected by the DW Sports Fitness administration process, the company said.

“As a consequence of COVID-19, we found ourselves in a position where we were mandated by government to close down both our retail store portfolio and our gym chain in its entirety for a protracted period, leaving us with a high fixed-cost base and zero income,” chief executive Martin Long said on Monday.

Long said that the “extremely challenging” market created “inevitable profitability issues” for the company.

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“It is a difficult model for any business to manage through without long-term damage, and with the limited support which we have been able to gain,” he said.

“The decision to appoint administrators has not been taken lightly but will give us the best chance to protect viable parts of the business, return them to profitability, and secure as many jobs as possible.”

DW Sports Fitness was founded in March 2009 when Whelan purchased some 50 JJB Sports fitness clubs and retail stores for more than £83m ($108m).

The company said in April that its monthly revenue had fallen to zero overnight during the pandemic, down from an average of £15m a month.

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