IT has been with a friendly smile that Football Ventures have gone about their business since taking over Bolton Wanderers – but no brave face can be put on the tough decisions that lie ahead.

When the club and its beleaguered staff needed an arm around their shoulder the arrival of Sharon Brittan, Michael James, Emma Beaugeard and Co last August fitted the bill perfectly.

Their first seven months have not been easy. The wreckage left in the aftermath of Ken Anderson’s destructive reign, followed by four months of administration was considerable and was never going to be cleared up overnight.

An amount of leeway has been granted to the new owners by supporters, even during a desperate season on the pitch. And it has been done in the hope that even if relegation was a bleak certainty, there would be a time in the not-too-distant future that things would be stable again.

Who could have predicted there would be a threat around the corner more destructive, one immune to protests or EFL regulations, and which affects Barcelona and Boreham Wood just as readily as it does Bolton?

Without the flow of money generated by matchday, by fans buying merchandise and television companies paying big sums to screen games, virtually all football clubs are just bad business models, for there is no demand, nor a product to sell.

And so the answer is to go into survival mode. Around 90 per cent of Wanderers’ non-playing staff were placed on furlough by the club this week – and though there were a few grumbles behind the scenes about the lack of consultation, the decision was unanimously agreed to be a necessary one.

Football Ventures talked of putting a “protective shield” over the club and hotel but realistically the money saved by placing admin clerks, kit men and ground staff on temporary leave is only a band-aid solution. As with every club in the EFL, the majority of wage expenditure is diverted to the football operation – managers and players. And until a solution can be found to curb those costs, every club is more vulnerable the longer the lockdown goes on.

Thankfully, Wanderers have a fanbase who have become decidedly more educated in the ways of business over the last few years.

The sensible reaction to staff furloughs and to season ticket Direct Debits continuing to be taken was due in some part to the calm and reasonable way it was explained.

Whereas in recent times club statements – and web-notes – have descended into egotistical rants or means to single out and discredit those with an opposing view, Football Ventures’ communications have been fair, reasonable and mercifully rare.

Their explanation of the furlough conveyed perfectly what a moral quandary the current climate had put them in – and yet it also hinted that more difficult decisions were yet to come.

Due respect and credit must fall to Emma Beaugeard, the club’s CEO, who has been directing operations at stadium and hotel while her father had been critically ill in hospital. He sadly passed away at the weekend, tragic news which added another sobering note to a difficult week.

With the game in suspension, fans all over the world have had chance to put their relationship with football and their club into some context. Those at Bolton, and to a greater extent, neighbouring Bury, have had plenty of practice.

Wanderers fans faced the prospect of losing their club straight in the face. Those down the road at Gigg Lane suffered an even worse fate and are still looking for some closure.

There can be no greater guarantee when football resumes – as it surely will – that Wanderers fans will once again back their club to the very hilt. They did during the uncertain times before Football Ventures’ takeover and they will regardless of what shape the rest of this season takes, or when it is played.

A mirror has been held up to football in the last few weeks and it would be nice to think that the time could be used for introspection, on how the game could be improved, or finances more evenly distributed to mitigate future problems. Realistically, it is only the threat of sponsorship withdrawal and litigation that guarantees the season will be started again.

Football simply cannot afford to rip things up and start again. So for Wanderers and so many others, it will be a case of hibernation until then, and the hope things will look brighter in the long run.