Following the departure of chief executive Jonty Castle, Coasters supremo David Haythornthwaite has decided to split that role in two.
As COO, Hickling will assume authority over all non-football activities at Mill Farm, while the next executive appointed will oversee the playing side.
Originally from Nottingham, Wigan-based Hickling has never worked in football before but his CV includes experience of the security and hospitality sectors.
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He told the club website: “I’m honoured, and when David spelled out his grand plans, there was nothing but excitement on my part to get stuck in.”
Haythornthwaite said: “Ashley’s role will be to look after everything that doesn’t involve footballers.
“He will have nothing to do with the football side but will make sure that every touch point for every fan who comes to the club is first-class. We want every fan to have a good experience, whether they are eating a pie or in hospitality.
“We need to get all the basics right. If you are in the Premier League, then getting the pies right probably isn’t all that important but for us it is – and I think Ashley coming in from a non-football background is good.”
As for splitting the two executive posts, Haythornthwaite added: “We have two or three candidates we’re talking to for the director of football or sporting director role and it’s a very important appointment.
“The role is really to define the DNA of this club. We all have an idea what it is but it isn’t clearly defined in everyone’s head.
“It’s ultimately about how we want to play and it’s really important that everyone buys into that.
“The best player (on the market) might not be the best player for our club. You want players who can fit in with the others who already understand the club’s philosophy. Everyone has to be on the same page.
“We have to make sure the kids coming into the academy play the way we want to so they can fit into Jim’s (manager Bentley) and Chaddy’s (assistant boss Nick Chadwick) team.
“The person we appoint will also be responsible for the setting up of a first-class scouting network. We’ve had a couple of goes at that and failed.
“I’m really excited about this and think it’s the right thing to do.”
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