We’ve all read the story about how Bolton Wanderers have been teetering on the edge of liquidation, but recent news has revealed that the club managed to avoid an immediate winding up, giving them until 22nd February to curb some of the debt.
The club, which is currently at the bottom of the Championship, is £172.9m in the red, owes HMRC £2.2m and are also under a transfer embargo for breaching Financial Fair Play Rules.
HMRC wanted to push for closure, but following a ruling from the High Court rejecting this, the clock is now ticking for the club to raise sufficient funds from asset sales to cover the debts or find a buyer.
But, finding the cash may not be the only thing on Bolton Wanderers’ mind. Soon, football fans may also be given a say in how clubs are run – and even how they are rescued in the future.
Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, has been quoted in the press announcing new proposals that will see football fans become more involved in how clubs are run. They could even have a say in how clubs are rescued from financial difficulties, have an opportunity to discuss issues that matter to them directly with the club and get involved with any strategy or ownership issues.
The announcement follows on from the final report of the Government Expert Working Group on Supporter Ownership and Engagement, which recognised supporters as the “lifeblood” of the clubs they’re involved with. But, as Crouch highlights, there is a “growing disconnect” present between the fans and those that run the clubs and more engagement was needed to bring the two back together. She said of the new plans: “It shows what can be achieved with the football authorities and supporters working together in partnership.”
It will mean holding biannual meetings to bring together those on both sides of the pitch, so that supporters will have a chance to have their say alongside club officials.
According to the reports, these proposals have already been backed by the FA, Premier League and Football League. As well as being more “hands-on”, fans could also access an emergency “relief” fund, which will be put forward by FA Premier League up to the sum of around £1m. These funds can be used to support bids to buy clubs if it hits the rocks, plus, there will be a database of experts available to help fans seeking to buy clubs pro bono. Once the plans go ahead, it could significantly change the way clubs are run in future as it will be based on more realistic reforms.
For Bolton Wanderers, it looks as though they will need to act swiftly for their February 22nd deadline, but in future it is possible they could be bailed out by their own fans.
Michael qualified in 1977 and was one of the founding partners of Dyer Burdett. That firm successfully practiced in Havant for over 30 years, before it merged with another local firm in 2008 to form Verisona Law.
Michael is a Director and Head of the Corporate & Commercial department, specialising in all areas of corporate and transactional work, including acquisitions, mergers, start-ups and MBO’s. He leads the majority of Verisona’s high-value corporate and commercial transactions, and is responsible for the co-ordination of all legal services relating to such work.
His commercial experience ranges from software contracts through to shareholders’ agreements and he regularly helps high profile clients in relation to media and entertainment law. He is also active in the insolvency field.
Michael is a trustee of two charities: The Peter Osgood Trust and the Hampshire Professional Golfers’ Benevolent Association. He is also a non-executive Director of Portsmouth FC.
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