Bolton ordered to play remaining games amid player strike
BOLTON, England (AP) — Bolton has been ordered to fulfil its final two fixtures in the second-tier League Championship, possibly by fielding its under-18 team, a day after the English soccer team’s players announced they were refusing to play in a protest against unpaid wages.
It comes as a proposed takeover of the financially stricken northern club was thrown into doubt because the businessman who has agreed to buy it, former Watford owner Laurence Bassini, appears to have failed to keep his pledge that players and staff would be paid during the takeover process.
Bolton players, who were relegated last weekend, said late Friday that they would not be playing the match against Brentford on Saturday. The English Football League chose to call off the game and charged Bolton with misconduct.
Governing body EFL said Bolton would have been forced to fulfil the Brentford fixture if its under-18 team had not been playing on Thursday but conceded there were potential player-welfare issues arising from the club fielding junior players at a senior level.
Bolton’s other remaining league game is against Nottingham Forest which, like Brentford, can’t be promoted or relegated this season.
“The current ownership difficulties at the club remain a significant concern for the EFL,” the EFL said, “and we will look to work with both parties over the next week to bring all outstanding matters to a speedy conclusion.”
Bassini is waiting for approval from the EFL to complete his takeover.
“The principal undertakings given by Mr. Bassini confirmed he would supply the short-term funding required to ensure the business can continue whilst the requirements of the EFL are undertaken,” Bolton said in a club statement.
Bolton’s players and coaches are still due their outstanding salaries from March.
“Despite further promises made to both the team manager and senior representatives of the squad,” Bolton said, “no funding has been made available to allow payment to the staff or players.
“Mr. Bassini also failed to make the funds available, which he confirmed would be placed in the club’s account prior to the Aston Villa game (on April 19). These funds were required to ensure the attendance of the emergency services under the stadium’s safety certificate.”
Bolton faced a winding-up petition on April 3 over an unpaid tax bill but the case has been adjourned until May 8 to allow the proposed sale of the club to proceed.
It was the sixth time in the last 18 months that Bolton, one of the founding members of the English league, has faced a winding-up order.