I am delighted with the High Court’s decision yesterday to grant an adjournment to Bolton Wanderers Football Club until 3 April for an unpaid tax bill, which could have seen the club either go into administration or liquidation. To lose the football club, which brings in a lot of money into the town and is a staple of the town’s esteemed history, would be devastating for the community as a whole.
Bolton was in the High Court yesterday over a 1.2 million pound unpaid tax bill to HM Revenue & Customs, which was handed to the club in February. During the case, the tax authorities had stated they had received “no communications and no payment” from the owner of the club, which goes to show again how poorly the club is being run under its current ownership. To add to the worries, there were an additional five creditors, including the kit makers Macron also demanding money from the club. With Macron, the current debt amounts to just under £200,000, which is a lot of money for a club like Bolton Wanderers in its current state. This all builds a rather bleak picture of a once-great football club, which was in the past battling Europe’s elites and Premier League giants but is now reduced to battling against Championship relegation and owing money to a lot of people. Things need to change, and quickly.
Luckily for Bolton, they had a hero in the courtroom yesterday. The Club’s lawyer, Hilary Stonefrost, has managed to buy Bolton a further two weeks in which to find a prospective buyer who will save Bolton Wanderers. She reassured the Judge that Ken Anderson has agreed terms with a buyer who has promised to pay off all debts associated with the club, including those to HM Revenue & Customs and other creditors who are owed money. Hilary Stonefrost stated that “The buyer is somebody who already has a major stake in a high level football club. Mr Ken Anderson has instructed to draft a share agreement but needs two weeks”. Thankfully for all involved, the Judge has given two weeks for this sale to be concluded and for the debts to be repaid. I personally commend Hilary Stonefrost for her outstanding work with Bolton Wanderers, not least because this is the second time she’s been in the High Court and managed to get Bolton Wanderers an adjournment, with the first time being back in February 2016.
Unfortunately, with numerous consortia and bidders’ deals falling by the wayside in the last few years, there is a distinct possibility that it could happen again, with the consequences for the football club and the town itself being dire. If administration occurs after 28 March, a 12 point deduction would carry into next season, whether we are in the Championship or League 1. If we go back to Court on 3 April with the deal having fallen through and the High Court decides to liquidate us, then the club’s assets, whether that be the stadium, players or training ground, would be sold off and Bolton’s illustrious 145 year history would be over.
I hope for the sake of all the staff, players and supporters that this does not happen and that a sale is promptly concluded and Bolton can get back to concentrating on trying to retain Championship status and pushing on to next season. In the meantime, the MPs of Bolton, Sir David Crausby, Chris Green and I will continue to push the English Football League to intervene in any takeover talks and we hopefully will not see any more financial trouble hanging over Bolton Wanderers. Here’s hoping that a new owner can be brought in and the days of Bolton Wanderers facing the elites of football can be seen once again.