BOLTON Wanderers have pulled the plug on a charity football match — less than two weeks before it was due to take place at the Reebok.
The decision — sparked by a row between the club and the charity — has left charity bosses “devastated”.
Former Whites legends John McGinlay and Spanish superstar Ivan Campo — in only his second appearance at the Reebok since he left the club in 2008 — would have been joined on the pitch by former Manchester United stars Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson and Andy Cole.
The charity, which supports children with autism, had booked the Reebok for the game last autumn and had confirmed a host of football stars to appear.
Scholes was due to captain one side, with former England international and TV personality John Fashanu leading out the opposition.
But a row has broken out between the club and the Hearts and Minds team over payment and promotion of the event.
Charity boss Ian Magrath said: “When we first booked the stadium they insisted they would handle the ticket sales and that the cost of renting the ground and staffing the event would come out of those sales.
“They also assured me they would promote the event at home games and in other various ways but none of that happened, so I’m guessing the sales weren’t very good.
- Minute's silence for arena attack victims to be held in Bolton town centre this morning
- Police make two further arrests this morning in connection with Manchester Arena attack
- UPDATED 10pm: Police search street after reports of gunshot exchange between two cars
- VIDEO: 'Please, don't let my daughter be a victim' - distraught mum of teenager killed in terror attack speaks at vigil
- LISTEN: Heartbreaking final recording of Olivia Campbell singing at music lesson before death in terror attack
“Three weeks before the game, when I asked why there had been no promotion, they went back on the agreement and demanded all the money up front — it’s an absolute disgrace, I have never worked with such amateurs in my life.”
Wanderers have insisted they extended the payment deadline.
In a statement the club said: “The game between Paul Scholes’ XI and Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang scheduled to take place at the Reebok Stadium has been cancelled.
“Despite the club agreeing to extend its deadline for the payment of contractual monies — fundamental for event equipment, catering, security and safety measures — from the event organisers, none have since been forthcoming.
“As a result, it is with regret that the club are no longer able to facilitate the event.”
But Mr Magrath was out of the country on Friday when he received a text to say the game had been cancelled.
He said: “We predict we have lost at least £10,000 because of this and a lot of players who had kindly agreed to give up their free time have been let down, as well as all the fans.”
Speaking from Nigeria, former Wimbledon and Aston Villa star John Fashanu, who also presented the hit TV show Gladiators, said he was “very disappointed” to hear the match had been scrapped.
Mr Fashanu, who has a son with a similar condition to autism, added: “It is really disappointing, I was looking forward to getting my boots on again for what would have been a great match and a great way to raise the profile of this wonderful charity.
“Let’s hope we can get it sorted for next year.”
Hearts and Minds Challenge said it is now looking at holding the event later in the year or early in 2015.