IT is a fact little known to the hundreds of students who walk back and forth through the University of Bolton’s grounds every day that they are treading on a little piece of Bolton Wanderers’ history.

Buried beneath the old engineering block, soon to be the Centre for Special and Visual Effects, is the old grounds of Christ Church – where in 1874 the Reverend Joseph Farral Wright and Thomas Ogden, the headmaster of the adjacent boys’ school, decided to form a football club.

Three years later a quarrel developed between Reverend Wright, the players and the committee, and a group ‘wandered’ to the nearby Gladstone Hotel for a meeting. Bolton Wanderers was formed in August, 1877.

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Some 141 years and many quarrels later, the club is still going strong. And perhaps it is fitting the university will add their name to the impressive purpose-built stadium Wanderers have called home since 1997.

It has not always been that way. The team led a rather nomadic existence in their formative years, playing matches at several venues, including the fancifully-named Dick Cockle’s Field.

Their first established ‘home’ was down the road from Christ Church at Pikes Lane, where the first-ever Football League goal was scored by Kenny Davenport in a game against Derby County on September 8, 1888.

In 1894 the club bought a plot of land at Burnden after raising a £4,000 share capital and by September 1895 they played their first game at what would become their spiritual home for the next century, Burnden Park.

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The famous old ground would see its fair share of triumph and tragedy and would showcase some of the greatest footballers to have worn the famous white shirt. But as the new millennium approached Wanderers began to explore the possibility of moving on.

The Taylor Report, conducted in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, had changed the way football looked at spectator safety and, coupled with the increased commercial opportunities in the game at the dawn of the new Premier League, a new stadium was sought and funded by former chairman Gordon Hargreaves.

Wanderers thought long and hard about what to call their new home, even inviting suggestions from supporters. In the end, the club was able to secure a sponsorship with Reebok which, at the time, was one of the biggest in UK sport.

One of the key men in the deal was Paul Fletcher, a former Bolton player who had been brought aboard as chief executive of the new project. He had overseen the building of Huddersfield Town’s new McAlpine Stadium and recognised the value of bringing aboard a huge sportswear firm, whose roots were embedded in the town.

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Reebok had been launched in Bolton by Joe and Jeff Foster in 1958 as a subsidiary to their father’s company JW Foster and Sons. The multi-million-pound company had been involved as Wanderers’ shirt sponsors since 1990 but between 1997 and 2014 their name became synonymous with the plush new £35million stadium.

Known universally as “The Reebok” – the new stadium launched Wanderers into a completely different era, on and off the field.

At the time, associating a sporting venue with a commercial brand was a rare occurrence. Middlesbrough had tied up a deal with communications firm Cellnet after moving away from Ayresome Park and in cricket, The Oval linked itself with Australian drinks brand Fosters. But held back by traditional factors, many of the biggest clubs in the country took time to warm to the opportunities on offer.

Wanderers had also been at the forefront of shirt sponsorship in the late seventies and, alongside Derby County, had lobbied the Football Association for permission to include company branding on their kit.

Nowadays sponsors adorn the names of dozens of the biggest grounds in the country including the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal, the Etihad at Manchester City, the King Power Stadium at Leicester and – briefly - the Bargain Booze Stadium, Northwich.

When the deal with Reebok expired in 2014, Italian sportswear firm Macron saw it as a good opportunity to break into the English game, also signing a kit deal which continues into next season.

Though the name “Macron Stadium” at first felt incongruous to the Bolton supporters who had grown accustomed to calling it The Reebok, it was quickly embraced.

Macron launched the rebrand with a glittering circus-themed evening, including stilt-walkers, acrobats and sword-swallowers. Guests even had their Champagne topped up by a waitress hanging from a trapeze.

Such extravagance was a rarity in the four years in which Macron’s name adorned the stadium. The club’s financial problems after relegation from the Premier League threatened its very existence at one stage.

Thankfully, however, things have started to return to an even keel, and part of the recovery will no doubt be funded by the long-term agreement with the University of Bolton.

It is not the first commercial tie-in between the two – and university branding could be seen on the players’ shorts last season. A shirt sponsorship with Fibrlec, a spin-out company associated with green energy, was also agreed in 2013 after a huge public backlash against the club’s plans to link-up with payday lenders, QuickQuid.

It could take time for supporters to see the complete transformation of the stadium – with branding and signage set to be replaced systematically over the coming weeks. Seating, which currently bearing the name Macron will also be replaced once it is convenient to do so.

But once the University of Bolton get their feet under the table it promises to be an arrangement which will suit both parties perfectly. Even Reverend Farral Wright would approve.