What a bloody morning. Against all odds, little old Bolton Wanderers have staved off the High Court for a third time and managed to get themselves another adjournment.
Before the hearing began, courtroom sources informed us here at Lion of Vienna HQ that the Football League had granted approval of the Sports Shield bid and the club were seeking a further adjournment of around seven days to allow time for the relevant funds to be transferred between various parties. The Bolton News' Marc Iles also confirmed the news, despite not being in court today (of all days). Praise the Lord!
Wanderers were Item #15 on the list this time, and with our case number confirmed, the court session began. As it was two weeks ago, the club was represented by Trevor Birch, insolvency expert Hilary Stonefrost and board member Richard Gee, however they weren't able to twist the judge's arm at the first time of asking. The case was swiftly adjourned until 2pm so the case could be heard in full with a validation order and all the other relevant financial documents.
For those of you that don't already know, a validation order is the only way a company can continue to trade properly after it's been issued with a winding up petition. When said petition is issued, a company's bank accounts and assets are usually frozen, but, in the case of a football club that needs to pay player wages etc., a validation order can be granted to allow the business to continue trading. We had a VO granted the first time we visited the capital back in January and it seemed as though we'd need another to get this deal over the line. So, with all that in mind, the judge decided the court would resume session at 2pm; effectively putting the validation order claim and our winding up hearing together into one, big, very scary looking case. One way or another, things would be completely sorted by then - either voluntary administration, complete liquidation or, against all odds, successful purchase of the club by Sports Shield and full payment to HMRC.
It's also worth noting that HMRC strongly objected to us being allowed another validation order and further adjournment, but the judge will not be making any sort of comment until the case is resumed at 2pm.
So, we were left waiting, and the Wanderers fans of Twitter were understandably frustrated...
I hope Deano's not forgotten his PIN number! #BWFC— Adam Smith (@smithadamj) March 7, 2016
Holdsworth has 3 hours to busk outside the court to raise the funds we need. Get a move on lad #bwfc— P - Rach (@WesleyBwfc) March 7, 2016
HMRC currently the only team #BWFC have done the double over so far this season— Andy Broome (@ap_broome) March 7, 2016
After a spot of lunch and several hours of sweating, 2pm came and court was back in session once more. Both HMRC and the club had made their positions clear - there was no dispute about that. It all boiled down to the judge's decision; nothing more, nothing less.
After a short session the court was adjourned again until 2:30pm to give the judge time to read further documents from Wanderers' legal team. HMRC accused the club of "playing with the judicial process" to which the club strongly denied. The club then stated administration would be disastrous with the loss of 350+ jobs at the club. HMRC argued that the club is insolvent and that it will never be able to pay in full, to which the club denied, again.
The judge then stated that Wanderers can afford to pay HMRC some funds using a current account, so they will receive some money as an initial part-payment. The judge then, amazingly, granted an adjournment for the third time but stated that if the club cannot get a deal done in the next two weeks they are likely to be liquidated. He said "we've used up all of our discretion" and that "there's no more room for leniency".
Praise the Lord. Somehow, we live to fight another day.