Bolton Wanderers enjoyed somewhat of a stay of execution on Monday, when their winding-up order was adjourned by the High Court, but the current financial plight really should serve as a warning for professional football, and how it is managed in the boardroom.
The Greater Manchester outfit have been given until February 22 to raise sufficient funds, or alternatively, find new investment. They currently owe HMRC £2.2m, and are also under a transfer embargo for breaching Financial Fair Play rules.
Player sales have not been ruled out – Zach Clough and Mark Davies were both on the verge of completing transfers away, only to reject deals at Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.
Other sellable assets are actively being pursued, with Wigan Athletic and Preston North End both looking around Euxton Training Ground, with a view to buying.
If recent reports are to be believed, four parties remain in the running to purchase Bolton, so hopefully this takeover saga will eventually be over. The short-term decisions which are being negotiated could have a real impact upon the long-term sustainability and health of one of the founding members of the Football League.
As yet, no consortium group have stumped up the money required to take full control, in what is turning into an ever increasingly disastrous situation, which also sees Bolton in £172m worth of debt.
The last few weeks as a supporter of this beleaguered club have been an emotionally draining, as events both on and off the pitch have spiralled out of control, to a point in which HMRC pushed to the extreme of attempting to liquidate the Trotters.
Neil Lennon’s men remain rooted to the bottom of the Championship after their most recent defeat, on Saturday afternoon – Dougie Freedman’s upwardly moving Nottingham Forest getting the better of the Whites at the City Ground, in convincing fashion.
Forest were awarded a penalty after 12 minutes played when goalkeeper Ben Amos upended Jamie Ward, the keeper received his marching orders, as Nelson Oliveira dispatched the resulting spot-kick from 12-yards out. Oliver Burke doubled Forest’s first-half ascendancy and Jamie Ward compounded the visitors’ misery in the dying embers of the encounter.
Bolton’s situation could serve as an appropriate warning for other football clubs – encouraging more supporter engagement and involvement of the running of teams up and down the country.
Football can be a cruel – chasing that ticket to the top-flight of the sport can involve teams going all out for that one shot, spending daft amounts of money to get there. If it works, great, though if it back-fires, it could have dire consequences later down the road – something that has been witnessed by those who once graced the Premier League in previous years, only to have slipped down the league ladder.
We have unfortunately seen on several occasions in the past in the British professional game, that teams have been engulfed in financial difficulties.
In recent years, fan-owned football sides have become a regular sight in England, having been a part of continental European football culture for some time.
There are 192 fan-owned teams across the United Kingdom – notable sides include Exeter City, AFC Wimbledon and Portsmouth – the trio have all suffered financial problems in their history, but are on a the right path with a secure foothold.
Bolton themselves have set up a supporters’ trust, for eager fans wanting a change for the better and, who knows, this could become the norm over the course of the next few years.
Wanderers beat Eastleigh on Tuesday night in an FA Cup replay and will be hoping that a cup run can temporarily lift the dark cloud which hangs over the Macron Stadium at the moment.