It was a very positive summer for Stu Holden on international duty with the United States Men's National Team. The Bolton Wanderers midfielder had made eight appearances for his country in the space of two months, helping the Yanks push on to a Gold Cup win on home soil against Panama. Holden started that final match but lasted only 22 minutes before being forced off through injury.
It was a devastating blow for US and Bolton fans that had seen the quality that the midfielder possesses on numerous occasions. The American had knocked knees with Panama's Alberto Quintero, injuring his right knee, not the left one that had initially sidelined him for close to two years. Holden was just 68 minutes away from a successful summer comeback and would have been ready to push for a starting spot with Bolton Wanderers against Burnley at Turf Moor. It did not work out that way and instead, Stu is set to spend months rehabbing his knee as the long road to recovery begins again.
Bolton Wanderers are a cash-strapped club, there is no secret about that, and every single bit of available wages is being reinvested in players to bolster the faltering squad. Fans have seen players like Marvin Sordell, Keith Andrews, and Tom Eaves make loan moves away from the club in order to free up cash for signings including Andre Moritz, Jay Spearing, and, most recently, Neil Danns with more players incoming. It was that lack of available funds that saw many Bolton fans immediately call for the club to cancel the American's contract in the wake of his injury. The Trotters were not going to do that. Instead, they decided that sticking by the injured midfielder once more was the correct call.
Holden had signed a one year contract extension (that runs out this coming summer) prior to the conclusion of last season and was still under the employ of Bolton Wanderers at the time of the Gold Cup injury. According to a report from the Bolton News shortly after the results of Holden's scans were made public, Bolton chairman Phil Gartside was on the phone, letting Holden know that his position at the club was safe while he worked to come back from the injury. This would allow him to get fit and fight for another contract extension with the Trotters.
Fans had wondered where the money to pay the American's wages was going to come from given that the Trotters could barely afford to pay fit squad members, let alone a player that had made just over 40 appearances in three years. There is no question that Stu would have been one of the first names on the team sheet had he found the pre-injury form he showed in 2010/11 and had he been fit but that wasn't the case, having missed out with two separate long-term injuries already.
There was initial confusion about the source of the money with many, myself included, thinking that national federations were responsible for agreeing insurance deals that would pay players injured on international duty. In previous years, it had been a major driving force in the club vs. country debate as some players hurt while playing for their countries had wages paid by their national federations while others were forced to have their own clubs cover the case.
We now have an answer in a bit of information that seems to have flown completely under the radar since its implementation in the summer of 2012. It was that June, ahead of the European Championships in Poland & Ukraine, at the 62nd FIFA annual meeting, held in Budapest, that a new policy was agreed upon. The policy would see FIFA set up a $75 million insurance policy to cover the wages of players hurt on international duty.
The policy, expiring in 2014, per a report from Bloomberg, could pay out as much as $91 million when all was said and done. It was designed to alleviate tension in the club vs. country debate, taking pressure off both parties by centralizing the process. Payments are made based on the size of the player's contract, paying out up to $27,000 per day per player. That figure wouldn't cover the entire wages for players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale, and so on, but it would serve the vast majority of players just fine.
With all of that figured out, Bolton Wanderers were right to hold on to the injured Stu Holden in the event that he completes his latest injury comeback and shows well for Bolton Wanderers. If the club had cut their losses right from the off, it would have been a silly decision given that they are not losing anything except a roster spot by keeping the American on.