AS adminstrators gave his former club Derby County a “95 per cent chance” of survival, and spending in League One hit record levels in the summer, Ian Evatt sees no end in sight for football’s financial woes.

It is estimated that a new buyer at Pride Park will need to find £50million just to clear the debts that accrued under owner Mel Morris, whose attempts to reach the promised land of the Premier League have now put the Rams’ very existence in doubt.

Further down the pyramid, the busted flush economy has started to permeate the third tier with rumours of huge overspends at some of Wanderers’ rival clubs in the pursuit of Championship football.

Bolton speak from a position of knowledge, having been in that situation as recently as two years ago. And though Evatt has only known a club rebuilding from the wreckage of administration and near financial disaster, he fears more are bound to follow down the same path.

“People keep making the same mistakes,” he told The Bolton News. “Just because you spend heavily it doesn’t guarantee you success. It is a gamble and if it doesn’t pay off then the money will run out.

“When the owners with the mega millions decide to leave and take their funds elsewhere it can leave clubs with huge amounts of debt, or with salaries they can’t recover from.

“It seems to be continuing. Some people still see it as the more you spend, the more chance you have got for success. But there are lots of ingredients that go into the recipe at a football club and especially with sustained success.

“We are trying to do it in what I believe is the correct way, i.e. within our means. Others are taking that risk and if it pays off, then fine, full credit to them, but I’d rather be where we are and ticking along OK.

“Eventually we will have that sustained success, I believe we are on the right path.

Signs of a changing economy in the Championship were plain to see in the summer window, where just 37 transfer fees were made, totalling just under £40million. Eight of the division’s 24 clubs did not spend a penny.

Likewise, Evatt saw a change in the transfer behaviour in League One, now home to seven former top-flight clubs.

“League One this season is a shining example of people still going at it hard,” he said. “There have been some big, big spenders and we don’t need to name names because we all know who they are.

“That adds pressure. If it pays off, credit to them, if it doesn’t then I hope these owners stick around to see it through because supporters don’t deserve to see their club go bust. Derby’s fans do not deserve to see their club on minus 12 points but the club is in the hands of its owners and those people have to act responsibly.”

While the apocalyptic forecasts for lower league football during the pandemic never quite came to fruition, there is still an appetite among many clubs – Bolton included – for some form of financial control within the EFL.

Last season’s salary caps proved legally unsound and were abandoned after a challenge from the Professional Footballer’s Association. This season clubs in League One are bound by the Salary Cost Management Protocol which restricts them to spending 60 per cent of turnover on player-related expenditure, or 75 per cent in the year following relegation from the Championship.

It will only be known after the event which clubs have adhered to the rules, with financial accounts following 12 months down the line.

But Evatt admits a satisfactory system has yet to be discovered which allows bigger clubs with bigger turnovers and fanbases to spend within their means.

“It’s a really challenging thing, isn’t it? Last season we had a salary cap which was one size fits all and I believe that it hindered us because our revenue was put in the same bracket as, for example, Morecambe. We could only spend the same as them,” he said.

“I don’t think that is the right way to go about it but there has to be some constraints. We need as an industry to have more responsibility when appointing chairmen and owners and looking into their background and making sure they are in it for the right reasons and the good of the football club.

“After that, is there a way we can cap things which ties in with revenue? There has to be a way to make sure clubs are spending responsibly. If there isn’t then we will keep going round in the same circles and the same journey and the last thing that fans deserve is to see the heartbeat of their communities go out of business and cease to exist like Bury.

“It nearly happened to us and I wouldn’t be sat here today if that would have happened.

“There are lessons to be learned, but whether they have been learned or not, ‘no’ is the answer.”

Sunderland are one of the fallen giants in League One looking to return to a level of football they have historically held – but they have found the route back more complicated than they first might have thought.

The Black Cats have finished fifth, eighth and fourth in the last three seasons but a change in ownership, investment at the club’s academy and a different direction on recruitment has added to an air of optimism on Wearside that this could be their year.

This is only the fifth campaign Sunderland have spent outside the top two divisions – the first of which was in 1987/88 – but with failing finances causing a sizeable reorder in recent times akin to the ITV Digital collapse in the early noughties, Evatt reckons there are no guarantees for even a club of their size and stature.

“It’s the industry we are in at the moment,” he said. “Clubs like Derby County in turmoil like we were a few years back, nobody deserves to be anywhere any more.

“It’s the harsh reality of football. Sunderland have to earn their way out of a division they feel they shouldn’t be in, just as we did in League Two. It isn’t easy and it takes time. It needs things to be right top to bottom and it needs things to be right with the leaders at the club, chairmen, and I think they feel they have got their act together off the pitch now. We certainly feel we have with Sharon Brittan.

“Lee (Johnson) will be confident of getting promotion but we will go there looking forward to the game more than anything else, there’s no fear.”

Evatt is optimistic that today’s game at the Stadium of Light will better suit his side after a frustrating 90 minutes against Rotherham United last weekend.

Wanderers have found it easier to play their natural attacking game on the road, where the onus is on the home side to push forward in search of goals rather than defend the point.

Expectation levels at Sunderland are famously vocal and Evatt expects entertainment, if nothing else.

“You’d like to think they will go toe-to-toe with us because I’m guessing Lee will back his side to beat any side in this division just as I do with us, if we play to our levels and standards,” he said.

“It has the makings of a very good game and it certainly won’t be 0-0, I’d guarantee that.

“We’ll attack as we always do. We don’t go fearful anywhere, we showed that at Ipswich.”