When last we checked in on Bolton Wanderers, the storied English soccer club was on the verge of ruin after years of mismanagement and ownership incompetence. Not much has changed since: while the nearly bankrupt club has found a potential new owner willing to buy the team, the deal still has yet to be finalized and might never. The proverbial shit finally hit the fan this past weekend, as Bolton players went on strike over unpaid wages, which caused the league to postpone a scheduled match and now leaves the club’s remaining fixtures in doubt.
Current owner and chairman Ken Anderson is still trying to sell Bolton to Laurence Bassini, but the deal hit a snag after the English Football League has yet to approve the funding plan for the purchase. Essentially, according to The Times, Bassini has failed to prove he actually has the money to buy the club. Anderson and Bassini signed a sale and purchase agreement on April 17, but since then, the prospective new owner still hasn’t coughed up the money to buy the club and pay the players’ March salaries, per the terms of the sale agreement.
The fallout from the delayed takeover at last reached the field this week. The players, who still have not been paid their March and April salaries, followed through on their previous threats to strike by actually doing so, stating that they would not play again until they get paid. In light of this, the EFL postponed the Bolton-Brentford match that had been scheduled for Saturday.
After hoping to get things sorted in time to reschedule the match for this Wednesday, the league confirmed today that the match will not be played at all this week. However, the EFL did specify that at some point the club will have to play that match and the season-closing one against Nottingham Forrest, currently scheduled for this coming Sunday. According to the EFL’s statement, Bolton have until Thursday to put together a plan for how they are going to play the two remaining matches, which the league will allow to be held up to four days after the end of the season (so, by May 9).
Speaking to talkSPORT about the strike, Bolton defender Andy Taylor admitted that Anderson, the current owner, has cut off all communication with the players over the last two months, leaving the club’s most valuable assets in the dark about their future:
For the last few months we’ve tried to get answers, but unfortunately Ken Anderson is a difficult man to get in touch with. Over these last two months, answers and communication has completely stopped. We’re in no clearer place than anybody else, the fans, media, we don’t know anything.
Taylor went on to say the team had to strike because they weren’t getting much help from the EFL, who he feels are being willfully ignorant of players’ well-being with their insistence on playing the remaining two games regardless of the takeover status.
As for Anderson and Bassini, Bolton announced in a statement that the deadline for completing the sale has been extended to allow Bassini to get approval from the EFL by proving that he has the money to do so. As The Times notes, there is serious reason to doubt Bassini’s ability to do so, given he has declared bankruptcy twice and that in 2013 he was barred from owning a club for three years for his shady dealings back when he owned Watford:
Bassini’s takeover bid has been surrounded by scepticism as he has twice been declared bankrupt. In addition, in 2013 a Football League independent disciplinary commission found him guilty of dishonesty and deception, banning him from being involved in a position of authority at a Football League club for three years.
If the new deadline (which the club did not specify) passes without a deal, then Bassini would drop out, leaving the already-relegated Bolton back where it was last month: under threat of administration and potential collapse.