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Neil Lennon's financially-stricken Bolton handed a lifeline

By Liam Blackburn

Published 19/01/2016

Taxing times: Neil Lennon faces an uncertain future at Bolton
Taxing times: Neil Lennon faces an uncertain future at Bolton

Bolton have avoided becoming the highest profile football club in England to ever be liquidated at the High Court.

Financially-stricken Wanderers owe HMRC £2.2m but, despite the tax company's attempts to have the club wound-up, the Championship side, who were playing in the top flight only four years ago, were given a five-week extension to find a solution to their cash problems.

Bolton said in a statement: "The High Court has given the club until February 22 to either close a deal with one of the potential buyers or raise sufficient short-term funds from asset sales.

"This would enable the club to trade and make payments on the debts owed to HMRC and other creditors."

It is understood the club, managed by former Northern Ireland midfielder Neil Lennon, is in active negotiations with four interested parties regarding a takeover while they are also on the verge of selling a car park at their Macron Stadium home, which is adjacent to the Middlebrook Retail Park, to provide short-term funding.

However, HMRC's aggressive stance means their situation remains perilous and sources close to the club noted it was "inconceivable but not impossible" that one of the Football League's founder members would go to the wall.

Trevor Birch, who has been appointed as advisor to owner Eddie Davies, said in the club's statement: "HMRC takes a very strict approach towards football clubs.

"Despite the club putting forward a solution - utilising funds generated from its assets that would have enabled repayment of its debt in full over a period of a few months - HMRC refused to agree to an adjournment to give effect to the plan.

"With that in mind, it is pleasing that the High Court rejected its wish to liquidate the club and that it has given the club time either to raise funds and or conclude a sale."

Bolton's slide into the mire has accelerated in the final year they will receive Premier League parachute payments because supporter Davies has pulled the plug on his financial backing.

He is willing to wipe out £185m of debt owed to him as part of any deal and the club has many attractive qualities for potential investors due to the fact they own assets - including their stadium, the hotel which resides in it and their training ground.

However, their location in the north west is proving a stumbling block for foreign buyers while the fact the team is languishing at the foot of the second tier, and therefore staring at relegation, is also thought to be acting as a deterrent.

Having failed to pay their players on time in November, offices at the ground were sold to subsidise wages in December and pay off a loan, and the training ground, like the car park, may soon be offloaded too.

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