BOLTONIANS waited with baited breath for word from the town hall, like a scene from a thirties movie.

There was no mayoral proclamation from the steps on this occasion, rather a statement on a website, but the council’s judgement on the latest disaster to befall Bolton Wanderers Football Club was no less dramatic.

Put simply, if the club cannot prove by this afternoon that they have the adequate safety measures in place to stage a Championship game against Millwall on Saturday, the gates will not be allowed to open.

In the council’s own words, the situation is “alarming” but then Bolton’s loyal and long-suffering supporters are becoming battle-hardened to such news.

Club owner Ken Anderson has found himself in an awkward position after failing to pay his 400 full and part-time staff last Thursday. This was particularly damaging to those who are employed chiefly on match-days in roles such as safety stewards and turnstile operators.

Without those vital cogs in place, the safety certificate issued last month by the council is rendered null and void and heavy fines — even a prison sentence — could be dished out to those who break its terms.

Wanderers have provided written assurances to the council that they will remedy the situation and make the deadline, yet the dismal financial position of the club Anderson is trying to sell paints a different picture.

Around £250,000 is needed to pay all non-playing staff employed by the club and satisfy the bill owed to Heathcote and Co, the company responsible for catering in the stadium, hotel and hospitality areas.

Owner Paul Heathcote, employs around 250 staff on matchdays and said he would withdraw all services if payment of his own bill was not made quickly.

“We have a responsibility as a director and we see no visibility on payment,” he said. “Therefore in the absence of that we have to make a decision.

“We are talking about 300 staff on a matchday, of which about 250 are our own.

“All our staff have been paid up to date, so our conscience is very clear, but as a company we need income to move forward.”

The decision to put pressure on Wanderers and ensure the safety of spectators was made after a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), comprising of representatives from the Wanderers, the council and emergency services.

Should the worst happen, and the game be postponed, the consequences are unclear but the embarrassment to both the club and the league would be considerable.

The EFL would hand out a punishment, most likely a points penalty. Yet they have boxed themselves into a corner recently in a letter to the Bolton Wanderers Supporters’ Trust, seen by The Bolton News, which insisted they were satisfied that Wanderers had enough funding to see out the season.

The outgoing EFL chief executive, Shaun Harvey, who was yesterday touted for a top job at the Football Association, also publicly backed Anderson, claiming he had improved the club’s financial position.

There has been precious little evidence of improvement in a week where the club has failed to pay its employees, closed its training ground because of a lack of food and power, and is now facing the possibility of seeing its safety certificate torn up.

Coaching staff and players have also not been paid, with the players’ union, the PFA, now in the process of being called in.

Debts have surfaced with alarming regularity in recent weeks, including a seven-figure sum owned to the council itself for unpaid business rates.

Other public services have suffered too. It is understood another £250,000 is owed to Greater Manchester Police and £60,000 to the Ambulance Service, which equates to roughly a whole year of bills.

Reacting to SAG statement, the Supporters’ Trust was fiercely critical of the situation in which Wanderers now find themselves.

“The news that the SAG have now given the club 24 hours to satisfy the legal requirements of the University of Bolton safety certificate provides an opportunity for Ken Anderson to rectify the currently scandalous mismanagement of our club.

“From his statement on the club website some 10 days ago that a deal to sell the club had been agreed in principle to being within 24 hours of having prohibition notices issued by the council is indicative of the state the club is in under his ownership. Enough is enough.”

Anderson continues to try and sell the club and is currently engaged in talks with at least two buyers, one of which is based locally, with financial backing from the Middle East.


The Safety Advisory Group met to discuss concerns about the ability of Bolton Wanderers to meet the requirements of the general safety certificate for the University of Bolton Stadium.

The meeting was called amid concerns that the club may not be able to provide sufficient stewards or

medical and emergency response cover for upcoming home fixtures.

Following the meeting, SAG members were not satisfied that the club is able to meet the required legal safety standards. SAG has agreed to give club until 1pm tomorrow to provide adequate reassurances, otherwise Bolton Council will be legally forced to issue a prohibition notice.

Bolton Council said: “The club has recently been unable to demonstrate it can meet the legal conditions of the ground’s safety certificate. After consultation with all members of the SAG, the council has taken the decision to give the club 24 hours to address all safety concerns, otherwise

we will reluctantly issue a prohibition notice.

“We understand some fans may be alarmed by this news, but the council is bound by legal process and we are not prepared to risk public safety by allowing any event to go ahead without proper resources in place. The club has the full support of the council and all the SAG agencies. We are hopeful a resolution will be found.”