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  1. ITV Report

Bolton Wanderers ordered to play final two league games but fans left out of pocket

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

Bolton Wanderers have been told they must play their final two games of the season, a day after their game against Brentford was called off.

The crisis-hit club hit its lowest point on Friday, after players refused to play in protest of unpaid wages.

In a statement on Saturday, the English Football League said Bolton must play their final two games with whatever players they have available to them.

The statement read: "Following the decision to suspend the fixture between Bolton Wanderers and Brentford late on Friday evening, the EFL Board has determined that Bolton Wanderers must complete their two outstanding matches in the Sky Bet Championship.

"The Club has been instructed to now make the appropriate arrangements for the rearrangement of Saturday’s game at the earliest opportunity."

The cancellation has left some fans out of pocket, refused refunds for a game that never took place.

One, Matthew Lawrenson, told ITV News: "It's heartbreaking. They took the direct debit yesterday [Friday] and obviously there's now no game - so we've paid for a game that we can't attend."

Players say they have not been paid since March. Credit: PA

The EFL said Bolton would now been charged with misconduct and be referred to an Independent Disciplinary Commission.

It said it was ready to help find a solution to the ongoing issues "with the long term interests of Bolton Wanderers and its supporters, our priority".

The club's final match of the season is due to be at Nottingham Forest a week on Sunday.

Bolton's players earlier revealed they had yet to receive their March salaries, along with five of their coaching staff.

A statement released on their behalf added: "We have endeavoured to continue our training and playing commitments during this extremely difficult time, with seemingly no resolution in sight."

Bolton were granted a further stay of execution by the High Court earlier this month.

The club outfit faced a winding-up petition on April 3 over an unpaid tax bill but the case has been adjourned until May 8 to allow the proposed sale of the club to proceed.

It was the sixth time in the last 18 months that Bolton have faced a winding-up order, which could result in administration or liquidation. The latest one was issued in February by HMRC over debts of £1.2million.

Former Watford owner Laurence Bassini has agreed a deal to buy Bolton, subject to approval from the EFL.

The club said "significant funds" would be made available to pay wages and some creditors before the deal is ratified, with all debts to HRMC and suppliers settled once it has been completed.

An empty University of Bolton stadium - home of Bolton Wanderers. Credit: PA

The players' statement added: "We thought that the prospective takeover of the club would provide a solution, but difficulties in its completion has left us no further forward.

"This situation is creating mounting mental, emotional and financial burdens for people through no fault of their own.

"The mental pressure has affected some people to the extent that they feel they are unable to perform their jobs sufficiently.

"These are unprecedented circumstances and are affecting every aspect of our lives, placing great strain on ourselves and our families."

The players' statement went on: "With deep regret, we have decided not to fulfil our remaining fixtures unless we are paid. We understand that this will disappoint our fans and for this, we sincerely apologise.

"We realise this may be seen as drastic action, but we feel we have no other options left."

The strike action has received the full backing of the Professional Footballers' Association.

Players say the situation is creating 'emotional and financial burdens'. Credit: PA

Speaking before the match was called off, Bassini told Sky Sports News: "I'm speaking with the players. It's not their fault they've been messed about so much.

"This club is going to be stable and secure. I'm not going to let anything happen to it. I've put a lot on the line for this. It's very important to me."