Why their star player this week was their lawyer

One of the most famous names in English football faced potential liquidation and a points deduction today in the High Court but when the case was adjourned for two weeks to allow more time for a buyer to purchase the club, it would have been cheered like a goal.

Founder members of the Football League in 1888 and a Premier League club until as recently as 2012, four time FA Cup winners, home of such illustrious names as Nat Lofthouse, the Lion of Vienna, Sam Allardyce, Jay Jay Okacha , Ivan Campo and Youri Djourkaeff could legally have been no more after today’s proceedings.

The club was facing it’s sixth winding-up petition in 18 months under owner Ken Anderson, this one over unpaid tax and VAT bills brought by HMRC that has finally lost patience with the Trotters.

A consortium, Football Ventures (Whites) led by private equity investor Parminder Basran and Sharon Brittan pulled out of talks late last week so the case came to court.

Kieran Maguire, lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool and writer of the popular http://www.priceoffootball.com blog outlined three possible scenarios to BBC Radio Manchester on what would ultimately happen: “One is that the owner sells the club to new owners which is the most preferable. Two is that the club is put into administration to give them breathing space and allow time for new owners to come in and three that they are wound up and liquidated, which would mean they are expelled from the league and all assets sold”. In any event, the adjournment allows more time for option one to play out.

The adjournment until April 3 takes the matter beyond the league’s own cut-off date of March 28. If the club does go into administration then, they will start next season on -12 points and also have a two year transfer embargo. .

If liquidated then they would be only the third English football league club to be expelled during a season following Aldershot in 1991/92 and Chester City 2009/10. This would cause chaos in the Championship as their results are expunged and teams that had beaten Bolton would lose those points.

The club has persistently been late in paying players and staff wages and only last week the training ground was closed as it had run out of food, drink and medical supplies.

The situation is further complicated as another club, Forest Green Rovers, have instigated legal proceedings over a collapsed transfer. They loaned a player, Christian Doidge, to Bolton in January with a view to completing a permanent transfer but Rovers ended up paying the players wages from January – effectively paying him to play for another team!

Amazingly Bolton were just one of three football teams facing winding up petitions today with League Two strugglers Macclesfield Town and National League Ebbsfleet United also facing the court.

They think it’s all over…

HMRC have been pushing courts to liquidate a club for some time to set an example and show football clubs aren’t a special case – or are they?

Thousands of fans attend every week and have done for generations, many more who have left the town still look out for results and watch their games on TV and for smaller provincial towns, the football club is a key community asset, bringing tourism and visitors to the town every couple of weeks and getting the town name in the national conscience through football results and coverage.   

There are also the community outreach schemes to local schools and other schemes to help promote fitness and engagement with other underserved communities such as senior citizens, the unemployed and refugees that have settled in the area.

Somebody who loves chocolate can go elsewhere if their favourite sweet shop closes down, what can a football fan do?  A Manchester United fan wouldn’t pop on the bus to Manchester City if they disappeared overnight!

Bolton Wanderers live to fight another day and prospective buyers have more time to complete due diligence and raise funds for the purchase but it can only be a matter of time until a court loses patience with a club and declares full time for their existence.