WANDERERS pointed to guidelines in the Premier League academy handbook as they informed the EFL of their decision to postpone their match against Doncaster Rovers.

Tonight’s game was shelved by the club because of fears over the “welfare and development” of Under-18s and 23s players who have been pushed into the first team of late.

The Bolton News has learned Wanderers’ senior safeguarding manager, Phil Mason, emailed a letter to the EFL’s safeguarding manager, Alex Richards, detailing the reasons why the match could not go ahead. The message was countersigned by academy designated safeguarding officer Steve Ellis, academy manager Jimmy Phillips and first team manager, Phil Parkinson.

Discussions had also continued between Parkinson and the league since last Thursday, when the Wanderers boss first raised his concerns about his players’ physical and emotional well-being ahead of the Tranmere Rovers match.

“I think it is fantastic that the lads have stepped up, given their all, and shown such pride in the Bolton Wanderers shirt,” Mason said. “The home game against Coventry was incredible, the best I have seen in a long time. However, they simply can’t sustain it.

“Their welfare is hugely important and if we did not raise these issues with the EFL then we would be neglecting our duties.

“Not only that, our argument is written in the context of the Under-18s and Under-23s handbook guidelines which say games should be organised in or around a Saturday morning to ensure there is appropriate recovery time and that a players’ development is not hindered.”

Rules 38 and 30 of the EPPP handbook for Under-18s and 23s coaches instruct clubs to try and organise all games in and around a Saturday, so as not to risk injury to players.

Wanderers currently have only four players aged 21 or over available for selection – goalkeeper Remi Matthews and midfielders James Weir, Luke Murphy and Jason Lowe.

Weir, aged 24, was signed on a free transfer at the start of the season after his release at Hull City. He has played 90 minutes in each of Wanderers’ four games so far but had not featured in a competitive contest since the Tigers’ 6-1 victory against Birmingham City on September 2017.

Eighteen-year-old striker, Eddie Brown, played 346 minutes of Wanderers’ four games so far in league and cup, while Harry Brockbank, 20, featured in all 360.

“No matter what sport you play, looking after players should take number one priority,” Mason said.

“We have seen in recently in the cricket but here we are talking about players who have not even played development squad football. They are being asked to play two levels above where they should be.

“That goes against the ethos of our academy and nothing should overwrite it.

“Sometimes it isn’t about whether players are willing to play, it is whether they should be playing.”

Wanderers could be forced to pay compensation to Doncaster for any expenses incurred for the postponed game and have also offered refunds on all tickets purchased.

Fans have been irked, however, by phone charges which are potentially incurred while ticket staff deal with enquiries.

The phone line, serviced by Ticketmaster, charges seven pence per minute plus an access charge, the size of which depends on the individual’s network. Costs of up to 72 pence per minute have been reported from mobile phones.

Wanderers have told fans that tickets will remain valid for the rearranged game or that they can be refunded in person at Bolton Central on Saturday, when Ipswich visit the University of Bolton Stadium.

No guarantees can yet be offered on whether the price of a match ticket can be refunded against the cost of a season ticket, should one become available before the rearranged game.

Wanderers could also find themselves answering questions from the EFL on why they announced the postponement of the game without prior warning to the league or their opponents.

The club has yet to hear when an independent disciplinary panel will judge on their cancelled game against Brentford last season, and some inside the club feel this most recent infringement of the rules is unlikely to help their cause.