Bolton ordered to play final two Championship games

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Crisis club Bolton have been told by the English Football League that they must fulfil their two outstanding Sky Bet Championship fixtures.

Bolton’s troubled season hit its lowest point on Friday after their home game with Brentford was called off, with Wanderers players refusing to play in protest at unpaid wages.

The Trotters, who were relegated to the third tier of English football last week, are due to visit Nottingham Forest on the final day of the season.

“The club has been instructed to now make the appropriate arrangements for the rearrangement of Saturday’s game at the earliest opportunity,” said an EFL statement.

“In issuing this directive, the board is aware that a number of the clubs’ professional players may not make themselves available but is satisfied that a team can be selected from the players they have registered and available to them.”

The EFL said Bolton would have been forced to fulfil the Brentford fixture but for the under-18 team playing on Thursday and the potential player-welfare issues that would have caused the club.

“This same issue will not reoccur as the club is able to plan the players’ preparation and recovery time accordingly,” the EFL statement said.

“We deeply regret having to make the decision to suspend Saturday’s game and apologise for the inconvenience this will cause for all those involved, particularly the supporters of both Bolton Wanderers and Brentford.

“As stated yesterday, as a result of Bolton Wanderers not meeting its fixture obligations as per EFL regulations, the club will now be charged with misconduct and be referred to an independent disciplinary commission.

“Finally, the current ownership difficulties at the club remain a significant concern for the EFL and we will look to work with both parties over the next week to bring all outstanding matters to a speedy conclusion.

“It should be recognised that the resolution is not in our hands but we will assist where possible, with the long term interests of Bolton Wanderers and its supporters, our priority.”

University of Bolton Stadium File Photo
Bolton’s takeover by former Watford owner Laurence Bassini has not yet been approved by the English Football League (Dave Howarth/PA)

Bolton “regrettably” confirmed on Friday evening that the Brentford match had been called off and said they would “like to apologise for the inconvenience this will cause”.

Bolton’s players earlier revealed they had yet to receive their March salaries, along with five of their coaching staff.

A statement released on their behalf added: “We have endeavoured to continue our training and playing commitments during this extremely difficult time, with seemingly no resolution in sight.”

Bolton were granted a further stay of execution by the High Court earlier this month.

The club 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 have faced a winding-up order, which could result in administration or liquidation. The latest one was issued in February by HMRC over debts of £1.2million.

Former Watford owner Laurence Bassini has agreed a deal to buy Bolton, subject to approval from the EFL.

The club said “significant funds” would be made available to pay wages and some creditors before the deal is ratified, with all debts to HRMC and suppliers settled once it has been completed.

The strike action has received the full backing of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

The PFA said: “The PFA supports the actions of the Bolton Wanderers players.

“The players have shown great patience and loyalty towards the club all season, but today, they have reached a point where action is necessary.”

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