Bolton Wanderers: Legal battle for club explained
By Ben Ransom - Sky Sports News North West reporter
Last Updated: 15/08/19 2:59pm
A takeover for Bolton Wanderers can now be completed after a block on the sale was lifted, but you can understand why the fans aren't jumping for joy just yet.
"It's been three-and-a-half years of hell really," Maggie Tetlow from the BWFC Supporters Trust explains.
"It's been so traumatic for the fans, for the staff and for everybody involved with the club - just a complete and utter roller-coaster."
The fact that I was speaking to her outside a court room tells its own story.
Around a dozen supporters joined a sizeable press pack on Wednesday to witness the latest round of an ongoing fight between Laurence Bassini, the former owner of Watford, and former Bolton owner Ken Anderson, the man behind Inner Circle Investments, which up until recently was in control of the club.
Back in May, Bolton were put into administration and ever since, the administrators have been attempting to find a buyer for one of the founding members of the English Football League.
They thought that had happened last Thursday when a deal was agreed and was ready to be signed for Football Ventures to complete a takeover.
That was until Bassini filed an 11th-hour legal roadblock in the form of an injunction and prolonged the agony for the long-suffering Bolton supporters.
Mr Bassini argued (and continues to do so) that the deal he agreed to buy the club from Mr Anderson in April still stands, and that he paid £1 for the transfer of the shares.
On Wednesday, the court heard Mr Bassini's counsel accuse Mr Anderson of moving the goalposts in relation to the deal, when two weeks later Mr Anderson threatened to put the club into administration unless Mr Bassini paid him £5million for the club.
In less polite language, Mr Bassini says he told Mr Anderson 'where to go' and his legal team continued to try to press ahead with the deal.
But Bolton did go into administration and Mr Anderson's defence explained that the reason that takeover was rejected was because it was always "contingent on EFL approval". At that stage, he says Mr Bassini had not been able to satisfy the EFL's ownership test with regards to fitness or proof of funds.
For his part, Mr Bassini claims to have a series of text messages from the then chief executive of the EFL Shaun Harvey confirming that he would pass fitness and funding.
But that evidence is refuted in a letter written by the EFL this week confirming that at no stage had they given permission for Mr Bassini to become the new owner of Bolton.
Although this was not a full trial of the legitimacy of Mr Bassini's claim, the legal jousting in court on Wednesday does lift the lid on what was clearly an extremely messy situation behind the scenes at Bolton towards the end of last season.
It was a situation threatening the very existence of the club itself.
Players and staff went months without pay, and on the pitch the inevitable slide towards relegation from the Championship was confirmed on April 19 when Bolton were beaten 2-0 by Aston Villa.
As the situation grew increasingly bleak, the players felt they had to take action. Having not been paid since February, they voted to strike, and the final home game of the season against Brentford did not go ahead.
Being one of the senior players, and the PFA representative, Andy Taylor had become the public voice of the dressing room. Almost four months on I sit with him in his kitchen at home in Hartlepool, and despite leaving the club in July his phone continues to ping with messages from the Bolton players' WhatsApp group.
He's still not been paid since February and doesn't feel like he can move on until the situation at Bolton is resolved.
"It's been tough for me and my wife, we've had to manage our finances because we don't know when we're going to get the money we're owed.
"I'm now out of contract which makes things even more difficult, I've not got the security of knowing I've got another wage coming in from another club."
It's been a long tunnel for everyone involved without much in the way of light to keep them going.
Maybe there is now a glimmer.
The administrators in charge of Bolton immediately hailed the latest court ruling as "excellent news" after the judge lifted any restriction on them selling the club.
A statement confirmed they are now in contact with all parties regarding the potential takeover to "progress to completion as soon as possible, and give everybody connected with Bolton Wanderers the good news they deserve".
With just five senior players left on the books trying to claw back a 12-point deduction in League One - boy do they need it.