Thursday 22 August 2019

Bolton ordered to fulfil final two league fixtures despite player's strike as takeover thrown into doubt

University of Bolton Stadium. Photo credit: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.
University of Bolton Stadium. Photo credit: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.

Phil Blanche

Bolton have been told by the English Football League they must fulfil their two outstanding league fixtures as Laurence Bassini's proposed takeover of the Sky Bet Championship club appeared to be thrown into doubt.

Bolton's troubled season hit its lowest point on Friday after their home game with Brentford was called off, with Wanderers players refusing to play in protest at unpaid wages.

The Trotters, who were relegated to the third tier of English football last week, are due to visit Nottingham Forest on the final day of the season.

Former Watford owner Laurence Bassini has agreed a deal to buy Bolton, subject to approval from the EFL.

But Bolton, in a statement responding to the EFL's insistence that the club must complete their fixtures, accused Bassini of failing to keep his pledge that players and staff would be paid during the takeover process.

"The principal undertakings given by Mr Bassini confirmed he would supply the short-term funding required to ensure the business can continue whilst the requirements of the EFL are undertaken," said the club statement.

"Mr Bassini addressed the squad prior to the game against Aston Villa on Friday 19 April. At this meeting he gave a commitment to arrange payment to the players and coaching staff who are still due their outstanding salaries from March by no later than Wednesday 24 April.

"Despite further promises made to both the team manager and senior representatives of the squad no funding has been made available to allow payment to the staff or players.

"Mr Bassini also failed to make the funds available, which he confirmed would be placed in the club's account prior to the Aston Villa game. These funds were required to ensure the attendance of the emergency services under the stadium's safety certificate.

"Mr Bassini gave assurance the monies required had been sent by Metro Bank on numerous occasions.

"Once it became clear that Mr Bassini had not transferred these funds Ken Anderson (Bolton owner) quickly sent the required amount to ensure the game could be played even though it was not his responsibility.

"During the past 10 days numerous further undertakings have been given by Mr Bassini but as of today no funds have ever been received."

Bolton's players revealed on Friday they had yet to receive their March salaries, along with five of their coaching staff.

A statement released on their behalf added: "We have endeavoured to continue our training and playing commitments during this extremely difficult time, with seemingly no resolution in sight."

"The club has been instructed to now make the appropriate arrangements for the rearrangement of Saturday;s game at the earliest opportunity," said an EFL statement.

"In issuing this directive, the board is aware that a number of the clubs' professional players may not make themselves available but is satisfied that a team can be selected from the players they have registered and available to them."

The EFL said Bolton would have been forced to fulfil the Brentford fixture but for the under-18 team playing on Thursday and the potential player-welfare issues that would have caused the club.

"This same issue will not reoccur as the club is able to plan the players' preparation and recovery time accordingly," the EFL statement said.

"We deeply regret having to make the decision to suspend Saturday's game and apologise for the inconvenience this will cause for all those involved, particularly the supporters of both Bolton Wanderers and Brentford.

"As stated yesterday, as a result of Bolton Wanderers not meeting its fixture obligations as per EFL regulations, the club will now be charged with misconduct and be referred to an independent disciplinary commission.

"Finally, the current ownership difficulties at the club remain a significant concern for the EFL and we will look to work with both parties over the next week to bring all outstanding matters to a speedy conclusion.

"It should be recognised that the resolution is not in our hands but we will assist where possible, with the long-term interests of Bolton Wanderers and its supporters, our priority."

Bolton faced a winding-up petition on April 3 over an unpaid tax bill but the case has been adjourned until May 8 to allow the proposed sale of the club to proceed.

It was the sixth time in the last 18 months that Bolton have faced a winding-up order, which could result in administration or liquidation. The latest one was issued in February by HMRC over debts of £1.2million.

The strike action has received the full backing of the Professional Footballers' Association.

The PFA said: "The PFA supports the actions of the Bolton Wanderers players.

"The players have shown great patience and loyalty towards the club all season, but today, they have reached a point where action is necessary."

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