Bolton Wanderers’ fall from grace

Bolton Wanderers' fall from grace

Last weekend, the Premier League kicked off the 2019/2020 football season with hundreds and thousands of football fans walking through the turnstiles, and millions more tuning into Match of the Day for the first time this season. However, outside of the world of English football's top flight, the future has been far more precarious for other clubs and professional footballers.

Professional football is often referred to as an industry that operates by its own set of rules. It's typically seen as a chaotic industry that is punctuated by the kind of short-term decision-making that breeds financial instability and legal uncertainty – not a positive observation. Rarely has that perception been more apt than in the cases of Bolton Wanderers F.C ('Bolton') and Bury F.C ('Bury'), with both clubs having faced a tumultuous summer this year.  

Bolton's fall from grace has been particularly stark. As recently as the 2007/2008 season, Bolton had a team that included former Real Madrid C.F players, they were playing in the Premier League and enjoyed forays into the UEFA Europa League. Fast-forward 11 years and Bolton find themselves in administration (administrators having been appointed in May 2019) and playing their domestic football in League One (the third-tier of English football) The team also starts this season with a 12-point penalty imposed by the Football League in light of the club entering administration.

Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the club's future is the on again, off again sale from the administrators to prospective new owners, Football Ventures, which has most recently been prevented by a satellite High Court injunction obtained by Laurence Bassini (the former owner of Watford Football Club). The statement released on 8 August 2019 by Bolton's Joint Administrator, Paul Appleton, spoke to the club's "outrage" at the latest setback in the proposed sale process.

The unfortunate net effect of Bolton's precarious financial situation is that the club had been unable to pay their playing staff in full since February 2019. Under the standard playing contract terms for clubs in the Premier League and English Football Leagues, footballers are entitled to serve notice of termination of their contract of employment where they have not been paid their salary for a period of 14 days after they fell due and such non-payment has not been remedied within 14 days of demand. Clubs have the right to appeal any notice of termination lodged by a player with disputes falling to be resolved by the English Football League via its Player Related Dispute Committee.

Our sports law team, working in conjunction with sports agency company The Endgame Group, are delighted to have acted on behalf of Josh Magennis, a Northern Ireland international, in relation to matters arising from his contract of employment with Bolton. Mr Magennis secured a transfer from Bolton to Championship club Hull City AFC for an undisclosed fee.

Our sports law team is a multi-disciplinary team of experienced lawyers specialising in areas such as dispute resolution and litigation, employment, commercial, corporate and mergers/acquisitions, banking and finance, and real estate and planning. We have a long-standing collaborative relationship with The Endgame Group.


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