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COMMENT: Why stability is the key for new owner at Bolton Wanderers

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
After the high drama and financial instability of the Ken Anderson era atWanderers, most would settle for the quiet life under the guidance of new owner Laurence Bassini.

Even as official confirmation was announced that the 49-year-old Harrow-born businessman had agreed a deal to purchase a 94.5 per cent stake in Burnden Leisure Limited, the club’s parent company, fans’ relief was tempered with a pang of concern.

The full picture of how Bassini plans to personally fund a business which has racked up significant debts in recent times has yet to fully emerge – but his pledge to instantly tackle problems such as unpaid wages and suppliers will go down well with a fanbase which has truly been through the mill.

Bassini’s business background, and in particular his two bankruptcies, mean he enters into his new venture with a point to prove to the patrons of his new club.

His 13-month spell in charge of Watford ended acrimoniously and with a three-year EFL ban but after admitting he had learned lessons form a difficult period at Vicarage Road Bassini knows the spotlight will be shining brightly on how he handles financial affairs at Bolton.

Wanderers are in desperate need of a period of calm. The stormy final few months of Anderson’s reign have seen a catalogue of problems which threatened the club’s very future.

Two winding-up hearings have been adjourned at the High Court, players have gone nearly three weeks without being paid and the training ground was closed because of a lack of food, water and fuel.

Smaller debts have mounted up, leading to a number of local businesses cutting ties with the club.

The Bolton Whites Hotel has also suffered and was hauled into the High Court by creditors on Wednesday – with a judge awarding a stay of execution until May 8. By that time it is hoped Bassini will have cleared the debts to put Wanderers and its businesses back on an even keel, and begin the process of winning back hearts and minds.

Anderson has warned his successor that running a football club with a wage budget of around £1million a month and overheads associated with a 22-year-old stadium is a costly business.

“The most important thing to appreciate is that this club cannot survive, let alone prosper on its current revenue streams in any division outside the Premiership without the benefit of substantial and continued financial support from a wealthy benefactor,” he said.

“This is clearly the case with virtually every other club in the Championship and maybe that’s why both the late Eddie Davies and l have struggled to find a buyer to take the club forward, as in reality there are not that many wealthy benefactors out there who are prepared to bank roll clubs as has been clearly seen with a number of owners making their clubs available for sale in recent years.

“For my part, l have always done the best l am able to do, but obviously that is not good enough or sufficient to please a number of our supporters.”

Bassini’s full plan still requires approval from the EFL but will involve all the existing loans to the club being settled in full, which means his initial investment will already be considerable. It remains to be seen whether that cash will come in the form of equity, or whether it will be consolidated into a loan.

Wanderers are on the verge of being relegated to League One, which will carry with it a drop of between £7-8m in sponsorship and TV revenue, not to mention gate receipts.

On the playing side, new impetus is needed. The potential new owner has refused to be drawn on a change of manager - and wisely so, for now - but the clamour among fans for fresh blood on the pitch and in the dugout will be difficult to ignore.

Before he was officially confirmed as the new owner, Bassini pledged to take Wanderers back to the Premier League in “three years” – a bold statement which was greeted with mixed reaction among supporters. Some admire his optimism, some worry that he is offering the moon on a stick. After arguably the most traumatic period in the club’s 145-year history, many folk around the town would settle for consistency and a club of which they can be proud once again.

Bassini has promised to “sort out the mess,” which will most certainly be music to people’s ears, for there is much to sort.

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