Crisis-club Bolton’s troubled season hit its lowest point on Friday after their Championship match at home to Brentford was called off, with Wanderers players refusing to play in protest at unpaid wages.
The cash-strapped Sky Bet Championship club, relegated to the third tier last week, are in the process of completing a takeover, but that has yet to be ratified by the English Football League.
The EFL announced that it had been forced to suspend Saturday’s match and the club were now guilty of misconduct.
It said in a statement: “Following the failure of Bolton Wanderers to provide formal confirmation of its ability to meet its obligation to fulfil its Championship fixture against Brentford on Saturday, the game will not go ahead as planned.
📰 Club Statement: Bolton Wanderers v Brentford
— Bolton Wanderers FC (@OfficialBWFC) April 26, 2019
“Earlier on Friday, the playing staff at the club issued a collective statement confirming that they had decided not to fulfil the remaining fixtures of the season unless they received monies owed to them.
“As a result of these disappointing developments, the League has been forced to suspend Saturday’s fixture and under EFL regulations, the club is now deemed to be guilty of misconduct and will be referred to an independent disciplinary commission.
“The EFL board will now consider the matter of determining whether the fixture will be played or not.”
Bolton “regrettably” confirmed the match had been called off and said they would “like to apologise for the inconvenience this will cause”.
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) April 23, 2019
The club’s final match of the season is due to be at Nottingham Forest a week on Sunday.
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 outfit 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 players’ statement added: “We thought that the prospective takeover of the club would provide a solution, but difficulties in its completion has left us no further forward.
“This situation is creating mounting mental, emotional and financial burdens for people through no fault of their own.
“The mental pressure has affected some people to the extent that they feel they are unable to perform their jobs sufficiently.
“These are unprecedented circumstances and are affecting every aspect of our lives, placing great strain on ourselves and our families.
“During this time we have remained patient in hope of some explanation, but information from the club has been extremely limited and very confusing. What we have been told changes constantly.
“With deep regret, we have decided not to fulfil our remaining fixtures unless we are paid. We understand that this will disappoint our fans and for this, we sincerely apologise.
“We realise this may be seen as drastic action, but we feel we have no other options left. This decision has not been taken lightly and is not a reaction to this one particular incident.
“We have suffered numerous issues this season and recent seasons. Brought on by the mismanagement of this club.
“We have been operating in a near-untenable environment for some time and it is the accumulation of these issues that have resulted in our decision.”
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.
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.#BWFC
— PFA | Professional Footballers’ Association (@PFA) April 26, 2019
“The PFA has been working with the club since the beginning of the season and we have done all we can to resolve this issue including giving Bolton Wanderers a substantial loan to cover players’ salaries in December.
“We will continue to support and represent the players and work towards a longer-term solution in the best interests of the players and Bolton Wanderers Football Club.”
Speaking before the match was called off, Bassini told Sky Sports News: “I’m speaking with the players. It’s not their fault they’ve been messed about so much.
“This club is going to be stable and secure. I’m not going to let anything happen to it. I’ve put a lot on the line for this. It’s very important to me.”