JUST before I left for the Wembley job at the end of the 1990’s, the club appointed a new finance director in ex-Umbro director Allan Duckworth.

We quickly became great colleagues and have developed a close friendship that lasts today. On my departure Allan took over the CEO role and worked closely with Phil Gartside and new director Eddie Davies.

Unfortunately, the club only survived its first year in the Premiership, returning to Division One status for three years before achieving a return to the Premiership for the start of the 2001/02 season.

Over the next 12 years, initially under the excellent (but costly) management of Sam Allardyce, the club enjoyed a long run in the top flight in world football until the 2011/12 season, when relegation struck again.

The Bolton News:

On a number of occasions during this period I attended games at The Reebok but I was always disappointed at the size of the crowd which averaged around 23,900, whilst the stadium’s capacity was 29,000.

This attendance reduced to an average of 15,900 between 2013 to present day whilst the club sank down to Division One and Division Two changing its name from Reebok to the Macron Stadium then the University of Bolton Stadium.

In simple terms, whilst in the Premiership the club could only fill three quarters of the stadium’s capacity and during the time in the Divisions One and Two the stadium was, for the most part, half-empty.

This was a period when footballing stadium disasters and football hooliganism was well behind us and most of the new and refurbished Premiership grounds, in competing towns and cities around the country, were enjoying sell-out crowds – and buying multi-million-pound players! Whilst in the brand-new Reebok stadium, Bolton Wanderers could only achieve a 75 per cent capacity turnout and the money would soon run out.

What was the reason for this? In my view it’s down to three reasons – location, location and location.

The location of the stadium in Horwich, seven miles away from the club’s birthplace at Burnden Park, has become a pitch too far for many older spectators to get to.

Neither the train, bus nor taxi could replace the ‘arrival’ at Burnden Park where it was estimated that 65 per cent of the spectators would walk to the stadium from the surrounding townships of Great Lever, Daubhill, Deane, Little Lever, Breightmet and Farnworth.

It is estimated that eight per cent of the Reebok attendance now walk to the games whilst the large majority have to arrive by car, bus, train, taxi or public transport.

I also wonder if the relocation of the football stadium had an impact on Bolton’s town centre? The stadium was easy walking distance from the town’s shops, bars, restaurants, train station, bus station when after the match many thousands of supporters would walk into town before making their way home.

A good victory would also encourage supporters to call into the bars for a celebratory drink. A revenue stream that was lost when the club relocated to Horwich.

I’ve learned over the years that football fans are complex characters who often vote with their feet. If something isn’t right for them, they still remain fans of the club but don’t attend matches.

Is it a coincidence that since the sad departure of Eddie Davies and his amazing investments into the club, the bank has now run dry?

The gate receipts, when added to the other commercial income and revenue from the league, is clearly not sufficient to pay for the quality of players needed to climb back into the big-league.

This has led to today’s problem where chairman Ken Anderson has filed the Notice of Intent to appoint an administrator for both Bolton Wanderers Football Club and Bolton Whites Hotel. In addition, Flidraw Limited, on behalf of the late Eddie Davies’s Trust, also filed similar documents for both Burnden Leisure and Bolton Wanderers Football Club, having served demand notices on both companies earlier that day.

This is a very sad situation for both Bolton Wanderers Football Club, supporters and the proud town of Bolton. At a time when the value of being a team in the Premiership is well over £200million, the club is facing life in the lower tiers of UK football with no clear plan of how to get out of the trouble.

The Bolton News:

It’s embarrassing to read that the club have set up an emergency food bank with donations from local businesses to help out staff who have not been paid, after the club became the first club to enter administration for six years. Like the players, the staff have mortgages or rent to pay. To emphasise the problem, this is at a time when Premiership football in the UK is the biggest sports business on earth and within the next decade it is expected that we will see the first £1million-a-week player as the fight for the best players continues to escalate. Wages and transfer fees will, without doubt, continue to get bigger and bigger.

Back to the stadium, I’m in the middle of a fascinating project led by World Cup sponsors Mastercard who, after extensive research, are predicting that over the next 30-to-40 years we will see football stadiums become the ‘centre-point’ for the creation of new towns and cities around the world.

But these new stadiums will be far different from the 31 new ones we have in the UK. For example, the pitch (two acres) will be located on level three which will allow two levels of car parking directly below.

On the ground level beneath the terraces (another two acres) the stadium offices will be located alongside a wrap of retail stores (Starbucks, Boots Chemists, Thompsons Travel, Greggs, Subway, William Hills – over 60 retail units can be located in this location) on the ground level. On the first floor there’ll be extensive office accommodation for local businesses who’ll enjoy easy parking below the pitch and a sexy, excellent location in the centre of the bustling cities.

And these new generation stadiums will have a wide range of additions: A University; 200 bedrooms of student accommodation; a hotel with 150 bedrooms; a police station; a 5,000- seater indoor concert venue (in addition to the 40,000 attendances that will see music events on the pitch).

The indoor area will also stage E-Sport events with players and spectators paying to both watch and compete with others from all around the world. This is not a pipe dream, it’s already happening. Some E-Sports players are earning £2-£3 million a year!

This building will also be very ‘green’ with solar panels on the roof; rain water collection and storage; heat recovery systems, car charging points on the car parks; LED boards and lighting etc etc etc. with many other items that have not been invented yet.

Apart from the car parking below the pitch, which will hold around 1,000 cars, the stadium car parks will be located 200-to-300 yards away.

The mistake of wrapping car parks around a stadium turns the building into a ghost-town on non-matchdays, as the stadium sits there empty, waiting for the next game to arrive. Another anomaly is: ‘If you are parked the nearest one to the stadium …… you’ll be the last one to get away!’ Far better to locate the retail and living accommodation on these spaces which is exactly what’s happened around Wembley stadium and other new stadiums in the UK. This wasn’t planned, it just happened! By accident! This is the future.

In addition to all this, there’s a new breed of football fan who has evolved over the last decade.

It’s a wealthy fan who doesn’t want to sit with the prawn sandwich brigade in the centre of the main stand, doesn’t want to arrive at the game at 11.30am and dine in a box, doesn’t want to arrive at the game in a collar, tie and best suit and doesn’t want to spend six hours out of his busy, family weekend, sat in a box with a dozen business guests.

He (or she) is still a fanatical fan of the club but: wants to arrive at the game a 2.55pm in jeans and a T’shirt; wants to have a VIP parking space on the car park and access to a private lounge which will have wooden floors and an urban, relaxed feel, wants to sit behind the goals in the middle of the rowdy supporters and wants to jump out of his seat and shout obscenities at the referee when he spots a bad decision. This fan will normally buy two or three tickets (for mates or family) at £1,000 - £1,500 ticket price, which will be double the standard season ticket price.

He’ll also sign up for a five-year agreement allowing the club to securitize his membership fee to raise additional funds. This concept is very successful at a number of clubs.

The Mastercard report suggests that future stadiums will become a catalyst for regeneration and create a focal point in the centre of a town or city. Just imagine if we could replace the Bolton Town Hall ……. with the BFC Stadium. Sounds silly but believe me this is the direction that football is going.

So, is there an answer to the Bolton Wanderers problem? I was asked a similar question, live on Sky Television about the West Ham predicament at the Olympic Stadium, where the West Ham supporters are sat 35 metres from the action just to allow a UK athletics event which comes around once every blue moon.

I played many times at Upton Park and the atmosphere was electric. As you ran over the touchline to pick up the ball for a throw-in, the West Ham fans would dig you in the ribs and scream abuse with offensive words you’d never heard before ……. it was fabulous!

Taking part in a fantastic football event with an excited crowd is hard to create in a stadium where the spectators are located so far from the action. My simple answer to the Sky interviewer was ‘knock it down and rebuild the stands four yards from the pitch.’ Unfortunately, there is no other solution.

Karren Brady wasn’t happy but sometimes you have to say it as it is.

It would be crass of me to suggest a similar solution for the Trotters. But somehow, to have sufficient monies to buy the best players, the stadium needs to be full to capacity every game of the season – and the stadium needs to be far more commercial.

This will then create the electric atmosphere that I experienced with my grandad at Burnden Park in 1958, and who knows, we might discover the next Nat Lofthouse, sell him to Barcelona for £200million and all the club’s problems are solved.