When I served in the Royal Air Force many years ago now, there was a training video we had to watch showing why we had to be constantly prepared for a terrorist attack. Its title was ‘It started like any other day'. Another forces adage for preparation is the five P's; Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Both me, the Bolton board ‘court team' and no doubt, Sports Shield all thought we'd be prepared for today for round 3 versus the HMRC, as after all, we'd been through this process twice before.
Despite another stellar performance from every Bolton fans favourite lawyer, Hilary Stonefrost, this was a very bad day for Bolton Wanderers and its fans.
On the walk up to court, it was a beautiful day in central London and the omens looked good. I was also meeting up with George Bower, one of the BWFCST steering group committee members, someone who knows a lot more about the political dynamics going on at our club than I.
I was looking forward to getting an insight into what was happening and having some moral support during the forthcoming court case, as well as being able to reach a wider audience through using the LOVS twitter account, rather than my personal one.
I met up with George and had a fascinating pre court chat. When I say fascinating, what I should be saying is alarming. Things are bad at BWFC, so bad that as our American friends like to say, ‘shit is about to get real'.
A lot of egos and reputations are in sensitive positions, as in a red head who's spent four hours too long in the sun without sun cream sensitive.
Essentially what this means is that unless one had a direct source to rumours heard, any hearsay, for instance me on the LOV twitter account tweeting rumours as I hear them, could quite possibly result in a club or bidders lawyer (remember Hilary!) heading in my and LOVS direction to bitch slap us out of house and home.
A sobering as well as bloody frustrating thought although wise advice from George.
Through George's connections we had a quick chat with Trevor Birch prior to the court session starting and Trevor confirmed that Bolton had got Football League approval for the Sports Shield takeover and would be asking for a further adjournment to enable the relevant monies to be transferred.
At this point, I think it fair to say that I've given Mr Birch a hard time on Twitter, particularly with the old ‘face like a slapped arse' comment at the last court appearance. From what George had told me earlier, the possibility was strong that Trevor had good reason, thanks to El Presidente Davies allegedly moving the goalposts and gambling with the clubs future to the nth degree. To be fair to Birch, he came across well and hopefully will stick around during administration, if it happens.
So our morning court appearance was brief, being delayed to 2pm in the afternoon, so that the registrar could deal with the adjournment request alongside a Voluntary Order hearing, which was needed to enable the money transfer to go through.
After another chat with George, I had to go back to work and unfortunately work commitments prevented my return. For Lion of Vienna, the baton was picked up by Jonny Eckersley liaising with George and I discovered first-hand what it was like to be waiting for news updates along with everyone else.
The afternoon's revelations have been covered elsewhere and through no small assistance from Hilary Stonefrost's brilliance, the outcome can be summarised as:
- Football League only granted provisional approval. Monthly accounts and updates to be provided to the FL by the club until Aug 2018 with a TBC type of embargo on player trading.
- Highly respected Thames Valley Capital had withdrawn their £2.5m from the SS-BWFC consortium and been replaced by a second investor ‘who can provide funds later'. The FL had not been able to fully approve this investor yet. Involved SS-BWFC providing an updated Witness Statement to the court.
- Club still paying later tax bills but the original £2.2m is STILL unpaid.
- Judge sides with Hilary and gives a further two weeks adjournment but says that the court may be at the end of discretion.
What does this mean? Well, firstly the next court appearance is 21st March. If Bolton can't meet that date then they will most likely need to apply for administration for two reasons. Firstly, they're unlikely to get a fourth adjournment, so if they haven't got an administration request in place, it's most likely liquidation time. Secondly, if they somehow survive again but go into administration after the 24th March, then its 12 points docked off next seasons running total. Not what we need if we want to bounce back from League One!
The fact that it will have taken up to four weeks to get Football League approval, conditional at that, for the SS-BWFC bid does not bode well. By all accounts Dean Holdsworth is a well-liked and respected person who has a genuine passion for the game of football and Bolton Wanderers Football Club.
In different circumstances he may well be exactly what the club needs for its next chairman. The problem is what is backing Dean up? I've heard conflicting views on his backers, some favourable others not so. There is also the possibility that investors are looking for their investments to do well, quickly, with any feelings for our clubs heritage not being on the agenda.
Remember that if they're secured creditors after the takeover, they have a cut of our assets. These assets are the prime development ground that the stadium, hotel and Lostock sit on, which can be sold off at profit if things go pear shaped for Bolton on the pitch.
SS-BWFC funding for next season onwards is unclear. They say they have funds in place, we will see. Finally Eddie Davies £15m last minute demand places further stress on the bidders succeeding.
For me, administration makes the most sense now. We're already effectively relegated, so a 12 point hit this season makes no difference. Administration will greatly assist getting the high earning staff off our payroll, something that HAS to happen if the club is going to have a future. It has its risks, of course, but, for me at least, it is a better prospect than a solvent club, financially stretched, still with up to possibly £30m debt, trying to make a go of it in League One.
Frankly the future looks very bleak at the moment and our only other hope is that Dean and his team have an ace in their back pocket, that we don't know about, which will make all our problems go away...