SKY Bet Championship club Bolton have confirmed they have been served with a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill.
Wanderers’ alarming financial crisis has deteriorated rapidly over the past few weeks after it was revealed they had failed to pay their players for November, and now HMRC has rejected requests from them to be given more time to conclude a sale.
If selling some assets on the football side of things means getting the club through stormy waters that’s what we’ll have to doNeil Lennon
Bolton, managed by former Celtic boss Neil Lennon, had hoped they could conclude a takeover this week after drafting in financial advisor Trevor Birch to help long-time owner Eddie Davies, who is willing to wipe out £185 million of loans owed to him, sell the club.
However, with discussions still ongoing, HMRC has now acted to call in unpaid PAYE and VAT for the month of November.
It raises the possibility of administration for Lennon’s bottom-of-the-table side, who would have their entire total wiped out if they were to incur the 12-point deduction that can be triggered by administration.
A statement on the club’s official website confirmed: “Despite requests from the club to HMRC to give it further time to either conclude a sale or raise additional funds, HMRC has proceeded with due process and duly served a petition.”
Birch added: “Quite clearly the club remains in a critical financial position. We will continue to try and finalise a sale or alternatively raise some short-term funds needed to give the club a breathing space and time in which to consider its options.”
Wanderers have been in discussions with a handful of interested parties since Birch was brought on board last month, including a consortium headed by former striker Dean Holdsworth, which has financial support from local boxer Amir Khan.
But the club remain in limbo until a suitable buyer can be found because Davies has turned the tap off on his own financial support.
Bolton remain hopeful administration can still be avoided because it will almost certainly consign them to the third tier next year, but they may have to offload promising youngster Zach Clough and midfielder Mark Davies, which would leave Lennon with a threadbare squad anyway.
Wanderers do own the Macron Stadium, the Whites Hotel that is a part of that ground and their academy and training ground and Birch, who has worked in bleak situations at the likes of Hearts, Leeds and Portsmouth previously, may have to get creative to raise funds over the coming weeks.
Speaking about the possibility of going into administration at his press conference yesterday, Lennon said: “Trevor has a few plans in place to avoid that scenario. That may mean doing things around the stadium in terms of selling bits off, I don’t know. He’s confident that he can avoid that.
“That [administration and a consequent 12-point penalty] would mean we would be a League One team and we’re just fulfilling fixtures for the rest of the season. What we need is someone to come up with the money, help the club out and just get us through a difficult period to January.
“What we may have to do in January is sell some assets in terms of the football side of things as well. But if that means getting the club through stormy waters that’s what we’ll have to do.”