EFL: The Bolton Situation

Bolton Wanderers Chairman Ken Anderson today reacted strongly to criticism of his recent conduct in a statement on Bolton’s official website. While Blues have a financial interest in what is going on with Jonathan Grounds on loan at the University of Bolton Stadium, I think there are wider lessons to be learned.


I’d describe the statement (which can be viewed here) as just a Wan Chai Titty Bar short of going full-on Pannu.

As someone pointed out on SHA, it was almost certainly driven as a reaction to this piece by David Conn in the Guardian, which lays bare the problems Bolton faces.

Norwich City are reportedly owed £195,000 in unpaid wages for on-loan pair Yannic Wildschut and Remi Matthews while a £1million deal for Christian Doidge from Forest Green Rovers collapsed as the Trotters were placed under a transfer embargo.

With the PFA reportedly having to assist to ensure that wages were paid to Bolton Wanderers players in November and December, it seems unlikely that Blues are not owed money for Jonathan Grounds although no news has emerged yet.

Reports in the local Bolton press state that the Trotters now face two winding up orders with Stellar Football Ltd and HMRC both chasing money owed.

I think it’s safe to say Bolton are in all kinds of trouble right now.

So what has that got to do with Blues?

In the short term, I think there are implications with respect to Blues’ punishment for their own transgressions last summer.

I would think that Blues now have a strong argument that the P&S rules are fundamentally flawed as Bolton were allowed to sign a player on a loan-to-buy arrangement despite seemingly not having the wherewithal to do so.

Likewise, the way Bolton avoided administration in August now looks like nothing more than an exercise in kicking the can down the road.

Financial Fair Play rules were meant to be designed to not only “level the playing field” financially for clubs but also to prevent clubs collapsing from excessive and unsustainable spending.

The controversy caused by Bolton’s failure to meet contractual and financial obligations to other clubs is precisely what member clubs of the EFL do not want.

In my opinion, that failure of the rules is the point Blues should hammer home in any negotiations – particularly as they’re more than likely one of the clubs affected.

In the longer term, I think we as fans need to look at what has gone on at Bolton and think about what it means in the wider context of the game.

Ken Anderson bought Bolton from former owner Eddie Davies in 2016 via his Inner Circle Investments vehicle in a 50-50 deal with former striker Dean Holdsworth’s company Sports Shield.

Sports Shield was wound up in 2017 owing £5mil to BluMarble, an Essex-based finance company and their shares were picked up by Anderson who now owns 95% of Bolton Wanderers.

Intriguingly, Holdsworth has managed to shake that off and acted as senior football advisor to the Sport Capital Group who took over Serie B side Palermo in December.

Anderson himself had to borrow £5mil from Davies in September mere days before the former Bolton owner died to prevent the club from going into administration.

Despite that loan finances clearly aren’t right at Bolton considering the wage issues and further winding up petitions and Anderson himself has said that he is doing his utmost to sell the club with “greater financial resources”.

This doesn’t surprise me if I’m honest.

When clubs are in financial troubles and facing administrators, often they will get a few suitors who are interested in buying a club for a rock-bottom price, “fixing it up” while spending as little money as possible before flipping it on to someone with a bit more cash.

I saw the phenomenon for myself during the sale process of what was then Birmingham International Holdings in 2014/15.

I spoke to representatives of at least five different consortiums during that period, and personally met two of them.

While I’m sure that in at least a couple of cases the reasoning for buying Blues was honourable, I was never personally filled with confidence as to what these prospective owners could do for Birmingham City.

It’s my opinion that Anderson is one of the worst examples of the “vulture” type would-be owners circling clubs when they’re in dire straits.

Back in 2016, Bolton blog Lion of Vienna Suite picked up on Anderson’s past issues and spoke of their concerns as to the financial future of Bolton Wanderers.

It’s damning to see how much of their concerns have come to pass in the past two years.

Is it me, or is it bad that a blogger can pick apart a consortium buying a football club yet the EFL can’t (or won’t) do a similar job to protect football clubs?

From a personal perspective, this is exactly why I do what I can to report on the ownership of Birmingham City.

Despite being a second-tier competition, the EFL Championship is one of the richest and most watched leagues in Europe.

It’s high time that it had a ruling body to match.

Leave a Reply