The battle to save Bolton Wanderers from bankruptcy has gone into added time after the League One club’s administrators missed a 5pm deadline on Tuesday to complete a takeover by the Football Ventures consortium.
Having started the season on minus 12 points, Bolton have been on the brink for months but it had been hoped that the 145-year-old club, one of the English Football League’s founding members, would be under new ownership by now.
That deal broke down on Saturday morning, however, forcing the league to impose the same final deadline it had set for fellow ‘crisis club’ Bury.
Now, with that line in the sand behind us, both clubs are in grave danger of being expelled from the league, a move that would lead to their immediate liquidation.
In a statement released on their website shortly after 5pm, the club said: “Discussions are ongoing with all parties and a further statement will be issued later this evening.”
It is understood the Bolton deal was ready to be signed on Friday afternoon and administrator Paul Appleton and the EFL were still confident it would be completed the following morning.
But that was when a disagreement emerged between former owner Ken Anderson and the club’s biggest creditor Fildraw, the family trust set up by Bolton’s great benefactor during their Premier League years, Eddie Davies.
Monaco-based Anderson, who was controversially allowed to take over at Bolton despite previously serving an eight-year ban from being a company director, has blamed the trust and its lawyer for the deal’s delay, with the other parties involved pointing the finger at him.
It is understood Anderson, who has charges against the club’s assets for debts of £2.5million, wants guarantees from Appleton that he will not be pursued by the administrator for any more money once Wanderers change hands. The trust, which has a charge for £10million of debt, is unwilling to grant that request.
If this was almost any other type of business, the deal would probably be completed and Anderson and Fildraw would be left to resolve this matter between themselves, so the club could continue as a going concern.
But the EFL simply cannot let Bolton, or Bury, stumble on, as there are implications for the competitive integrity of the league.
So if this dispute cannot be resolved, the league will reactivate the notice of withdrawal it suspended, giving the Trotters 14 days to come up with an alternative plan to meet their debts and fund the season.
That, however, would not really be a fortnight’s respite, as Appleton has already said he will have to wind the club up, as Football Ventures have been funding his work and he will have a legal responsibility to prevent any further losses.
In the meantime, hundreds of Bolton fans have gathered at the University of Bolton stadium to express their frustration on a day loaded with poignant memories of better days, as it would be club legend Nat Lofthouse’s birthday.
The so-called Lion of Vienna died in 2011, the year before Bolton were relegated from the Premier League, and his statue at the ground has become a rallying point for angry Trotters.