With less than two weeks to the start of the new EFL season (Friday, 2nd August), we suspect your club are currently in the middle of a host of pre-season games, proudly showing off new signings and wearing a shiny new kit. Maybe a couple of players have come and gone, and perhaps your club starts the season with a new man at the helm or in a new division too? One thing is for sure, supporters are now starting to awake from their summer slumber and are getting excited for the start of a brand new season. A new season and a new hope, unless you are a supporter of Bolton Wanderers that is.
Whoever you support – and I do not support the Trotters – you cannot help but wonder what on earth is going on at the University of Bolton Stadium?!
With liquidation averted but administration entered, the club are still – with 13 days to go before the first game of the season – none the wiser as to who will own the club, run the team or even if they can put a team out.
Firstly, the club did avoid being liquidated after several trips to the courts. However, with administration comes a 12 point deduction before they kick a ball in anger away at Wycombe Wanderers on August 3rd. Some may say Bolton are fortunate not to have suffered a bigger penalty after failing to fulfil a Championship fixture at home to Brentford at the end of last season. The authorities did award the 3 points to the West London side and that seems to be the end of the matter.
Relegation to League One was on the cards for most of last season, in fact, Bolton only avoided relegation the season before on the last day of that season, with two goals in two minutes to beat Nottingham Forest 3-2, so things have been tough on the pitch. Those troubles have been dwarfed by the troubles off it, though.
Previous owner, Ken Anderson tried and failed to keep the club going, yet appears to be taking a large pay-check off the new owners for his doomed time at the club.
Staff on and off the pitch haven’t been paid regularly, which is the real human tragedy of this debacle. Real people with mortgages, bills and the like to pay are in serious financial trouble due to a lack of a basic pay day. Despite the modern footballer appearing to be millionaires, the money does not always flow down through the leagues. Some of the players and youth players have had hard times due to a lack of earnings. Let us not forget that a player in the Championship will live within their wages in terms of house, car, lifestyle etc and when that money no longer rolls in as is expected and contracted, no one can live off it.
On the field, several players have left leaving just 7 first team players in the squad (although the Tweet below suggests things are a lot, lot worse, but ultimately it’s unclear). The playing staff have not had acceptable training facilities to prepare for the forthcoming season and therefore decided enough is enough and have refused to play several pre-season friendlies. This is not conducive to good preparation for the new season. Then there are no season ticket sales as they are dependent on the takeover of the club. What a mess.
On a positive note, the club did manage to swerve a bullet in Lawrence Bassini taking over the club. In case you didn’t know, Bassini, in 2013, was found guilty of dishonesty and deception and banned for three years from being involved in a position of authority at any Football League club. It followed an inquiry into the loans he took out.
Bassini claimed he had the £20million required to save Bolton Wanderers and even went on television waving a Bolton shirt around declaring his love for the club and claiming he will not let the supporters down. Madness.
Ultimately, Bassini was unsuccessful in proving to the EFL that he had the required funds he boasted and the deal never materialised. Then he tried again, bidding against several other ventures to buy and save the club only for the administrators to choose Football Ventures Consortium. Administrators claim that Football Ventures have proof of the funding to buy the club and support it financially for the next two years, which is the basic demand of the administrators.
Bassini, not happy with losing out again, has allegedly inundated the administrators with texts and emails, some of which have bordered on harassment. Clearly, Bassini was another Ken Anderson.
Us football fans are an impatient bunch. We want plenty of transfers and we tend to want them right away. We know which players our club should sign, how much they are worth, which formation is best suited to our team and who should be our manager. Well, at least some of us think we do! Fans also expect takeovers to happen within days not months, yet a takeover of a club in administration can and usually does take months. However, with the season just around the corner, time is not what Bolton have. The sticking point over Football Ventures’ takeover appears to be around the purchase of the hotel at the ground, but who knows.
The problems from a football point of view are mounting. What physical and mental state is the playing squad in? What will the squad look like come 3rd August? Surely any new owners will want a new manager? That new manager will want his own players too, right? The list goes on.
With so much still in the air at Bolton, is the 2019/20 season just about staying afloat and avoiding a double relegation to League Two, bearing in mind the 12 point deduction the club start with?
Despite the initial optimism of the club avoiding being folded, there are many question marks hovering over the club. So if your club has not impressed you this close season with recruitment, pre-season results or like Coventry City – will not be playing at your own ground or in your own city – spare a thought for Bolton Wanderers fans who haven’t a clue who, if anyone, will turn out at Wycombe come 3pm on Saturday 3rd August.