SHARON Brittan has laid bare the challenging financial arena facing Wanderers, even if they are successful in Saturday’s League One play-off final.

Approaching five years since they rescued the club from administration, and the brink of collapse, the Bolton chairman admits that the joy of securing promotion with victory against Oxford United would also come with its own tests in the future.

Under the current financial structure in English football, Ms Brittan estimates that she and her fellow investors may need to find an extra £20million per year to compete in the Championship – with no guarantee of success.

Though some clubs have managed to succeed in the notoriously unforgiving financial climate with what is generally considered a low budget – Luton Town getting promotion on a pre-tax loss of £6.4m, increased to £16.3m based on bonuses for reaching the Premier League (source, Swiss Ramble).

Ipswich Town were lauded for their double promotion, achieved with transfer fees of less than £5million this season. But they also posted comparable losses to Luton as a League One club just 12 months earlier.

The perilous economy of the second tier is well-known to Wanderers, who once wrote off a then EFL-record £50.7million in their financial accounts at that level of football.

This year’s group losses at League One level totalled £5.6m, and though assurances have been made that a funding plan is in place, regardless of the outcome this weekend against Oxford United, Ms Brittan is among the many figureheads calling for fairer financial distribution in the football pyramid to reduce the pressure on owners up and down the land.

“I came into football five years ago for two reasons – one because I love the game, and two because I wanted a platform to do good,” she told a Parliament committee.

“Having worked in industry I wanted to come into football and run a club the way I work in business, and that is with the right people in the right way doing an honest, transparent, coming together as a team, knowing what an impact that would have on the community.

“When I walked into Bolton Wanderers in 2019, I cannot explain the pitiful situation that I walked into having had a previous owner – I can’t even say the club was on its knees, because it was beyond that.

"There were staff who hadn’t been paid, they were eating from foodbanks, people hadn’t paid their mortgages, they hadn’t paid their rent. I do a lot of work in mental health and people’s wellbeing was beyond catastrophic.

“I have seen first-hand the impact of having the wrong owners at football clubs and the effect that has on the community. I cannot stress enough, and I have worked with Rick Parry over the last five years, the owners fit and proper persons test has to be stringent.

“Football in the UK changes people’s lives. We have the ability as owners of these football clubs to make change, to give people hope.

“More so than ever now, since I came into the club, people are having very difficult lives. And it is not just about money or what we have to pay for salaries, it is about the impact that the whole football pyramid has, which is why the distribution has to be fair.

“It has to be fair for us, as owners, to get the opportunity to continue the work we are doing. I still go into Bolton on a Saturday afternoon and have grown men crying to me, saying ‘you saved our football club. God, my family and you are up there with what you have done.’

“And it isn’t just 300,000 people in Bolton, there is a wider impact than that because as a good owner, you work with another good owner to make sure that extends out further.

“The way the Premier League are working – and I am sorry for being outspoken – but I work in an honest and transparent way with a good, clean heart. People need to do the right things.

“This is a pyramid, it’s not just the Premier League. It is the Premier League, the EFL and the National League, and I think it is a travesty that it has got to this stage, where all you, good, hard-working people are having to be involved and spend your time dealing with this when the football authorities have been unable to resolve it themselves.

“Sorry to go on… But I have been at the heart of it for five years and I am passionate about where it is going.

“The pressure has got higher and higher in terms of what we have to spend. But Bolton is a big club, I love sporting jeopardy, I think the pyramid is absolutely brilliant. Promotion, relegation, it all adds to the excitement. Better financial redistribution will make a difference to every single club, regardless of size.”

The Bolton News: The average operating losses of clubs from National League to Premier League levelThe average operating losses of clubs from National League to Premier League level (Image: NQNW)

Wanderers will be looking to return to the Championship for the first time since 2019, when they suffered relegation under previous owner, Ken Anderson, amid a slew of financial issues which eventually forced the club into administration.

Football Ventures have helped to rebuild and restore Bolton’s reputation, with Ms Brittan openly lauded as the type of person that the EFL is looking to bring into the game.

However, the stark financial demands of the Championship will be steeper for Bolton unless the EFL can come to an agreement with the Premier League about their ‘New Deal’ or an independent regulator is appointed by government in the longer term.

The Football Governance Bill currently on the table has been widely praised by EFL owners, albeit there are some concerns that it does not adequately tackle the issue of parachute payments, or the voting issues which currently make changes difficult to enforce.

There are also concerns over how regularly rules will be reviewed and whether the regulator will be given powers to address issues they feel are making the game unsustainable.

“In the draft bill as it stands today, I know there are some areas that the EFL would like to be looked at,” said Ms Brittan. “To me, Rick Parry is a man who has led the organisation over the last five years in the right way. I am really sorry, and I would say this to the Premier League, but I don’t think they have done the same.

“Anything I say I will say to people’s faces. I don’t talk behind people’s backs. I don’t gossip.

“Rick Parry has done a superb job, and I have read through and talked through with him areas where he feels the bill could be amended. It is important those areas are agreed because the Premier League are not working with us so we could go through all this effort and then by not getting it right could get further problems.

“What I’d like to see is a bill that goes through which is going to be absolutely effective and that we can all move forward in a really exciting way. It is global and there is so much good we can do for this country.”

To listen to Sharon Brittan's full speech - press play on the graphic below.