Yesterday saw the death of Bury Football Club, and the hint of a reprieve for their near-neighbours Bolton Wanderers. It is just a pity that they don’t deserve it.
The football news of recent weeks has been dominated by Bolton’s plight, as if one of the Football League’s founding members deserves a free ride and a get out of jail free card simply by virtue of their longevity.
But just what exactly has this ‘long and illustrious history’ consisted of? No major honours since 1958 and the dubious record of having played the most seasons in the top flight without ever having won it. And still they claim to be a big club? When your most successful manager of the last sixty years is Sam Allardyce then ‘big’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.
If you ever wanted to find a group of supporters even more deluded than Tottenham’s then look no further.
The reason that Bolton find themselves in their current situation is due to living grossly beyond their means both during their Premier League years and after relegation in 2012. Four consecutive finishes in the top eight of the league between 2003 and 2007, and reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Cup in 2008, came at a cost – namely the bulk of the £172.9 million owed mostly to the club’s owner Eddie Davies by December 2015, when the club faced their first winding-up petition from the HMRC.
Throughout the last two seasons, Wanderers would receive four more such petitions from the taxman as the club priortised promotion back to the Premier League’s gravy train over responsible business practice. They are now in very real danger of liquidation.
And what has been Bolton’s supporters response to all this? When other clubs have been in a similar position – Portsmouth and Brighton, to name two – their fans have rallied around the club and shown to the wider world that there is something worth saving. Yet the same can not be said here. Fair play to the five thousand-odd who watched them lose 5-0 to Ipswich at the weekend, but the silence from the 24,000 empty seats at the University of Bolton Stadium was deafening. Remember that, when they flood radio phone-ins and social media with claims of being heartborken when “their beloved club” goes the way of Bury.
If Bolton end up going out of business, then them serving as an example to any other club tempted to gamble their future in pursuit of short-term gain would be a fitting end. Because when Leeds borrowed too much money in pursuit of Champions League glory and ended up in administration, how much sympathy was there for them? If Roman Abramovich turned off Chelsea’s funds, leading them to get relegated before going bust, would we all be in tears?
There would be no sympathy for them at all if that were the case, and Bolton deserve no more now.