Remembering Maurice Lindsay

Following today’s sad news about the passing of former Chairman Maurice Lindsay, Club Historian Keith Sutch pays tribute to him.

It is with great sadness that Wigan Warriors learned of the passing of former Chairman and Director Maurice Lindsay.

Maurice Lindsay was born on 8th May 1941 in Horwich, Lancashire and later in life became the owner of a contractor’s plant hire company as well as a bookmaker.

Lindsay came to Wigan RLFC in 1980 and formed a new and innovative board of directors with Jack Robinson, Tom Rathbone and Jack Hilton who became known as the gang of four.

Wigan’s fortunes in Rugby League had taken a massive dive as the Club found themselves in what was the old second division, but it was down to the new board and ultimately the vision of Lindsay that enabled them to regain their first division status and as they say, the rest is history.

As Chairman, Lindsay was at the helm of the Club and pioneered Wigan to become one of the first teams to turn professional in the league. For several years, Wigan dominated not just English rugby but also world rugby.

Lindsay was directly responsible for some major recruitment at Wigan – bringing players to the Club who later went on to become legends such as Dean Bell, Andrew Farrell, Andy Goodway, Andy Platt, Brett Kenny, Denis Betts, Ellery Hanley, Frano Botica, Joe Lydon, Jason Robinson, Martin Offiah and Mick Cassidy.

Lindsay with Ellery Hanley.

This quality recruitment led to winning an impressive eight League Championships, between 1987–96, as well as nine Challenge Cup wins including a record eight consecutive wins between 1988-95 as well as five Lancashire County Cups and three World Club Championships.

Although Wigan won copious amounts of silverware under Lindsay’s leadership, perhaps his most iconic win would be the 1987 World Club Championship against Manly Warringah – which was his innovation in a one-off winner takes all match that is still vividly remembered to this day by many supporters over the age of 40.

Due to Lindsay’s innovation, he became Team Manager of the Great Britain RL team whilst continuing his Chairmanship at Wigan and was manager when the team toured New Zealand in 1990 and Australia in 1992. He was also elected as President of the Rugby Football League in 1992.

Lindsay left the Club for a while and became the Chief Executive of the RFL in 1992.

His innovation again came to the fore when he put forward proposals for the Super League which eventually replaced the First Division Championship as the sport’s elite league competition in the UK from 1996 onwards.

In 1996, he also became Chairman of the Rugby League International Board which at the time, was at odds with the Australian Rugby League.

Lindsay left the RFL to become the Chief Executive of the newly formed Super League (Europe) Ltd in February 2008. with Lindsay immediately securing a new lucrative TV contract exclusively for Super League. He remained at Super League until he voluntarily retired at the end of 1999.

Lindsay re-joined Wigan when they moved from Central Park to move to the JJB Stadium, after Dave Whelan saved Wigan Athletic FC from liquidation.

With the return of Lindsay, the Club won one Challenge Cup, under the stewardship of Stuart Raper in 2002, reaching the finals of the Super League in 2000, 2001 and 2003, unfortunately losing on each occasion.

Lindsay’s return to Wigan wasn’t as successful as his previous term in office and in 2007 he resigned from his role, with his statement citing a disappointment of missing out on reaching the new Wembley for the Challenge Cup and ill health as the reasons for his decision.

Lindsay also served on the board of directors of Wigan Athletic, represented the shareholder’s committee of the FA Premier League and in 2008 was elected to FA Premier League FA Council.

In 2009, Lindsay became Chairman of Racecourse Data Technologies Ltd (RDT).

A year later, he became Chairman of Preston North End FC but resigned in 2011 after battling septicaemia following knee surgery.

Although Maurice Lindsay never wore the famous Cherry and White shirt of Wigan, he is just as much a significant icon of the history of this prodigious Club as the players on the pitch.

Wigan Warriors send their deepest condolences to Maurice’s family and friends at this very sad time.