Bolton Wanderers: From Bad To Worse
The news, such as it was, was unlikely to come as too much of a surprise to those who have been following the disastrous states of both Bolton Wanderers and Bury for some time, but the way in which it was presented was still something of a shock. With the EFL already having confirmed on Saturday that Bolton have until 5pm on Tuesday 27th August to demonstrate that there has been significant movement on their alleged takeover by the Football Ventures consortium, the feelinfg that this particular tragi-comedy might finally be heading towards its denouement had been hanging heavy in the air. This morning, however, administrator Paul Appleton confirmed that some had suspected for a little while.
At 5pm on Friday August 23, the completion of the sale of the football club and the hotel had been agreed by all parties and undertakings had been issued by all solicitors except those of Ken Anderson.
Devastatingly, on Saturday morning that deal collapsed. At this stage, there seems little point in apportioning blame because that makes no difference to the staff, players, management, supporters and the community who have once more seen their club taken back to the brink.
My team have spent the last 48 hours working around the clock, striving to get a deal back on track and trying to convince the parties still in conflict that the very fate of Bolton Wanderers depends on them finding a compromise.
The EFL have made their position clear by insisting on a 5pm deadline on Tuesday for a deal to be completed or give compelling reasons for an extension. They have also written to everybody concerned in the process to underline that sense of urgency.
On Sunday evening, there was some tentative dialogue but we are still some way from reaching a solution. Therefore, I am appealing to those parties whose position seems intractable to do everything to reach a compromise.
In just over 24 hours, the club will have its membership of the EFL revoked. Over and above that, the club is currently not in a position to carry on trading and, as such, the process of closing down the company will commence on Wednesday.
This will ultimately lead to its liquidation, the expulsion of the club from the EFL and the inevitable loss of over 150 jobs. More than that, it will devastate a community for whom the football club is a beacon of hope and expectation.
I reiterate, unless there is a change of position from any of the parties involved, the process of closing down the club and ultimately placing Bolton Wanderers into liquidation will begin this week.
Strong words, then, and obviously not those that supporters had been hoping to hear from the man charged with the unenviable job of trying to rescue this absolute basket case of a football club. The Football League’s Notice of Withdrawal against the club, which was suspended earlier this month because the EFL believed that they’d seen substantial enough proof that it was going to ahead to allow them to do so, gives the club fourteen final days to find some sort of rescue from somewhere, with the possibility – if the case of Bury is anything to go by – that the club might even be able to get a couple of days extra grace should they be able to persuade the League that they’re within touching distance of a deal to finally end this madness.
This, however, likely doesn’t have a great deal to do with the EFL’s recent decision. The statement issued by the administrator touches upon the subject, but doesn’t lay the blame at their door. Instead, it would appear that previous owner Ken Anderson was back to his carpet-bagging best, pulling the plug on the deal that had been agreed on Saturday morning. As Appleton himself admits in his statement, though, “there seems little point in apportioning blame because that makes no difference to the staff, players, management, supporters and the community who have once more seen their club taken back to the brink.”
And he’s right. Whilst Ken Anderson may be a piece of human excrement that repeated flushes have been unable to successfully remove, he’s far from the only person to blame in a story upon which the fingerprints of many, many people might be found. The FA, who govern the game overall in this country (or used to – they’re effectively dormant in all aspects of running the game apart from their cup competitions and the national teams), and the Premier League, who gave the club the illusion of solvency for such a long time, have been silent from beginning to end. The Football League’s involvement has been little more than application of the laissez-faire “rules” (such as they are) of wild west, disaster capitalism, and then turning on a wholly unconvincing (and more than a little pathetic) attempt at being a strong enforcer of The Regulations and The Integrity, as though anybody looking on isn’t already fully aware of how bumbling and incompetent they’ve been.
It doesn’t end there, either. Eddie Davies was a hero to many Bolton supporters during his lifetime, but his legacy might yet turn out to be the club’s death. It has been reported that the argument that flared up towards the end of last week was between the Trust and Anderson. Had the club been slowly weaned from it years ago, then it might have been able to recover while Premier League money or parachute money was still available. Everybody in football knew for years that Bolton Wanderers were an accident waiting to happen – here’s The Guardian’s David Conn on the subject of the club’s overspending a full decade ago – but nobody did anything to rein it in.
But if the issuance of a Notice of Withdrawal doesn’t quite mean the end of the club, then why is Appleton now talking as though the game is up at Bolton, and that the club now needs to be liquidated? The answer is quite possibly money. Bolton Wanderers might not have barely any senior players left, but the club does still have 150 staff and those people are due to be paid at the end of the month. With no season tickets having been sold, the club having no shirt sponsors, and every match so far having been hanging in the balance until a day or two before it was scheduled, it’s likely that there is simply no money to pay them, that the club as a business is fundamentally broken to such an extent that the collapse of this takeover might just be the tipping point at which it simply becomes unsustainable to continue.
There probably aren’t any saviours left to come swooping in at the last minute to save the club. Laurence Bassini, who has been engaging in telling anybody who’ll listen that he has £30m burning a hole in his back pocket that would be much better spent on The Great Bolton Wanderers Financial Bonfire, but few people are taking him very seriously. Meanwhile, it has already been reported that the Kamani family, owners of the BooHoo.com online fashion retailer, have been in negotiations to buy the White’s Hotel, which was key to the Football Ventures bid being successful. They, however, have previously stated that they have no interest in buying the football club, and if they were to merely glance at the headlines surrounding the club over the last couple of years or so, such a policy would seem to be entirely sensible.
At this stage, though, nobody knows. Nobody knows what is going to come next, and nobody knows how Bolton Wanderers can be saved. The Eddie Davies Trust and Ken Anderson could patch up their differences and sign the agreement that would facilitate the sale of the hotel, which would facilitate the sale of the club. Alternatively, a new buyer could come in at the very last minute to save the club. Or… Bolton Wanderers will have to be liquidated. Its assets will have to be sold. And the club itself will die, quite likely to be replaced by a phoenix club, starting somewhere near the bottom of the football pyramid. But, as with the situation at Bury, it’s important that we remind ourselves that none of this is inevitable, that the death of Bolton Wanderers, should it come to pass, is the result of conscious decisions made by people. Those people should be held to account, should the worst happen.
And the worst is now looking more likely than ever.