After their devastating relegation from the Premier League in 2012, things have seemed to go from bad to worse for Bolton Wanderers Football Club. The Lancashire club are in debt of £172.9million and also have a winding up petition looming over their heads. The question is though, where exactly did it all go so horribly wrong?
Many loyal Bolton fans will likely look back to April 2007 when Sam Allardyce left the club; after an eight year long stay, where he succeeded in leading the club from the second division, all the way the UEFA cup knock-out stages. ‘Big Sam’s’ departure has since sparked untold trouble on and off the pitch. The team collapsed in the following season, eventually leading to relegation to the Championship only five years later.
Despite ambitions to make an immediate return to the Premier League, the club set about recruiting mediocre Championship players or those from the top flight with their best years firmly behind them. They did this in conjunction with paying them extortionate wages, some of which today are reported to be around £25,000. Most recently, the likes of Emile Heskey and Shola Ameobi have been brought into the club, and despite them being at the back end of their respected careers, they will no doubt be on high wages. Worst of all, they had been brought in at a time when the club knew they had to cut their spending, in any way possible.
Even players leaving the club were sold on the cheap, with the prime example being Gary Cahill, who signed for Chelsea in a mere £7 million deal, where not only has he been key to Chelsea’s recent success in the league and cup, but also establishing himself as England’s first choice centre-back.
You can forgive those associated to the club for thinking that nobody seems to have a clue what they’re doing. The mismanagement at board level and drab displays on the pitch have slowly but surely seen attendances drop, with the average gate dropping by around six to seven thousand fans, a statistic that will more than likely fall even further if they are relegated to League 1. Bolton fans will have had enough, and with the league opponents such as Rochdale, Swindon and Southend, the following to the Macron stadium will no doubt have a negative impact on the club’s income. However, we are all aware that it is not only Bolton who allow players to leave for low transfer fees, or pay players more than expected, so it’s not that much of a problem, right? Wrong, and if that’s not enough to alarm the board, then maybe the reports of monthly losses of £1 million will.
It seems there will be no light at the end of the tunnel for Bolton. The latter portion of 2015 has seen the club edge closer and closer to administration, which would include a 12 point deduction; all but ending their season. They have also been hit with a transfer embargo by the Football League after the club failed to submit the Financial Fair Play accounts for the 2014/15 season.
A ban on buying players may appear to be a catastrophe, however the temptation of spending silly money being taken away from the club could be a good thing. It will restrict the club from bringing in players manager Neil Lennon believes could make at least a short-term impact, but that immediately highlights the recent problems being caused by the manager. He is looking for quick fixes that in such a competitive league such as the Championship, simply does not work. The squad is in a position that only they can dig themselves out of, unless of course Lennon wants to risk free agents that are on the market.
Of course the club won’t see it as any sort of blessing in disguise, but instead another potential nail in the coffin. In November, the staff were not paid on time, and now the club have released a statement that once again, wages for nearly 300 staff at the Macron and the club’s training grounds will be late for January too.
So with the club owing huge debts to the likes of HMRC as well as its own staff, how can Bolton find the funds needed? There has been constant talk of a takeover being imminent, with Lennon himself assuring fans a deal is due to happen, only with nothing then to materialise. The club’s only option is to sell whatever they can, ideally players on big wages. The bad news though (yes there is more) is that every deal that looks as though it has been given the green light, falls through at the last hurdle. For example, the promising youngster Zac Clough declined a move to Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday pulled out their offer for Mark Davies. Even the sale of the club’s car park seems to be hampering the turn of Bolton’s fortunes.
However, there is hope. Bolton were scheduled to face their winding-up petition in court on the 18th January, but this has now been pushed back to the 22nd of February, meaning the club have more time to raise the money required. Currently, Lancashire rivals Preston North End and Wigan Athletic are rumoured to be in a battle to purchase Bolton’s training ground, for a price of £2.5million, which will cover the £2.2million they owe HMRC. Maybe once this is settled, the club can start to look forward again.
The last few seasons have been nothing but a disaster for Wanderers who; barring a miracle, look destined for another relegation to the third tier of English football. Even if a takeover is successful and the debts are wiped out, the rebuilding process will certainly be slow, and it could be that loyal fans will be waiting years to see their team back in the big time. Sadly, all they can do now, is wait.
By Joe Dyda
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