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The Embargo Manifesto

A spectre is haunting football; the spectre of Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

It's never boring being a Wanderer, is it?

On Wednesday evening, Marc Iles of The Bolton News broke a story which is supposed to have emerged last week. The crux of the issue is as follows: despite our "bespoke" transfer embargo, the Football League has changed embargo rules considerably for the 2017/18 season.

The main points which apply to Wanderers are:

1) The club can have a squad of a maximum of 23 players on professional contracts (which applied to us last season)

2) Loan deals can only be agreed for a maximum of half a season (ending season long loans which we benefitted from last season for players such as Andy Taylor)

3) a wage cap of £4,500 per week, more than halved from the £11,500 limit last season (though the Football League authorised Wanderers to pay more than this during the 2016/17 season)

Chairman Ken Anderson replied in little more than an hour to "clarify" the article. In it, Anderson denied that a directive had been issued last week, that the club made no appeal last week, and that he had "no plans" to meet with the Football League to debate this. Most interesting in the chairman's response was the speed of it - I don't doubt that the club expected this news to break. Also, the repetition of "last week" struck me - maybe the chairman is challenging the timing of the directive, rather than the accuracy of Iles' reporting.

Whatever the truth, and like most things it may well lie somewhere in the middle between the two differing perspectives, it spells bad news for The Whites.

In a time where relegated Middlesbrough can spend over £30m of parachute payments for three strikers with little to no Premier League experience (Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite, Ashley Fletcher), and Wolves can throw almost £15m at Ruben Neves, it would be little more than an act of cruelty to impose such limits.

How a Championship outfit is expected to pay its players a measly £4,500 per week is beyond belief. With relegated sides soothed by the ever increasing Premier League parachute payments, a divide is emerging in English football's second tier. In time, only a handful of Championship sides will be able to compete at the top of the division, with the vast majority devoid of ambition and opportunity.

The aims of a transfer embargo, from the perspective of the football league, is to make financially irresponsible football clubs solvent. However, should their measures prove too punitive, it will only serve to damage a club's on-pitch performances, resulting in stagnation, relegation and future financial misery as the payouts from those in charge of of the game become increasingly meagre.

In some form of sporting Reaganomics, the vast wealth of the Premier League is beginning to trickle down to the Championship's middle class, with the rest of us left to battle to survive. If Karl Marx was a football fan, he'd be a Wanderer. Then again, his best mate Engels called the town a "dark, unattractive hole", so maybe not.

If the Football League isn't careful, our football team will descend into the "dark, unattractive hole" of footballing poverty. As one of my Twitter followers pointed out last night, all we can do is support our club through thick and thin. We were here before this circus, and we'll be here after it.