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Bolton match abandoned, club guilty of misconduct over unpaid wages

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Cash-strapped side Bolton Wanderers, whose match against Brentford originally scheduled for last Saturday was postponed 16 hours before kickoff when players refused to take the field over unpaid wages, has seen the match officially abandoned, and the EFL has opened disciplinary proceedings against the club.

The club has been in a dire situation all season, having avoided administration back in September at the buzzer thanks to a last-minute deal to repay a loan. An ownership change fell through just days ago, with current chairman Ken Anderson seeing a self-imposed deadline passed for prospective buyer Laurence Bassini to provide prove of his financial capital.

Now, with players publicly refusing to play after failing to receive their wages for March or April, play on the field has been affected. Saturday’s match was postponed with the first-team squad refusing to play, and while the match was originally rescheduled for next Tuesday – two days after the end of the season – but adequate security personnel could not be confirmed with staff also going unpaid, so the EFL has called off the fixture and opened proceedings against the club. The cancellation of the match results in an automatic 1-0 victory for Brentford.

“Following the decision taken by Bolton Wanderers’ Safety Advisory Group (SAG) to issue a prohibition notice preventing Tuesday’s rearranged fixture with Brentford from taking place, the EFL will not be asking that the game is played at a future date,” the English Football League said in a statement. “There is no provision under EFL regulations to direct clubs to play at a later date than four days past the conclusion of the season and, as a result, it has been determined that Brentford will be awarded the three points on the basis of a 1-0 victory.

“As a consequence, Bolton Wanderers is now deemed to be guilty of misconduct by the EFL which will result in disciplinary proceedings against the club being taken at an appropriate time.”

The club announced it will go ahead with the final match of the season on Saturday against Nottingham Forest, with the PFA handing the club a second loan to allow the players to finish the season. The PFA confirmed last week that the organization had quietly loaned the club money in December to pay player wages, but the situation has not improved.

Bolton is already confirmed to have been relegated from the Championship. They played in the Premier League as recently as 2011.

Bolton set for much-needed ownership change after sale agreed

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BOLTON, England (AP) A businessman who was banned from English soccer for three years for financial misconduct has signed a deal to buy struggling second-tier club Bolton.

[ MORE: Bolton given extra time to settle tax debts, avoid liquidation ]

Bolton says Laurence Bassini, the former chairman of Watford, has purchased the club and will settle its long-term debts that are threatening to put one of the founding members of the English Football League, in 1888, out of business.

The change of ownership must be approved by English soccer authorities.

Bolton, which could be relegated to the third tier on Friday, owes $1.6 million to Britain’s tax authority and its players have still not been paid their salaries for March.

[ MORE: Bolton avoid administration, 12-point deduction in 11th hour ]

Bassini was banned from holding a position of authority at an English club for three years in 2013.

Bolton says “significant funds will immediately be made available” once the sale of the club is confirmed, “enabling the payment of the outstanding wages to the players and coaching staff along with a number of the long-term creditors.”

Bolton was most recently in the Premier League in 2012.

Report: Bolton avoid administration, 12-point deduction in 11th hour

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UPDATE: A deal has reportedly been struck, in the final hours, for the loan to be repaid and the club to continue in compliant financial standing. Official announcements still pending.

It’s been six and a half years since Bolton Wanderers were last in the Premier League — relegated to the Championship on May 13, 2012 after 11 seasons in the top flight.

[ MORE: Moshiri increases Everton stake, plans more by the summer ]

Since falling out of the PL on the final day of the 2012-13 season, Bolton have spent five of the last six seasons floundering in the Championship (bottom-half finishes in four out of five), with a brief stint in League One two seasons ago after finishing 24th out of 24 teams in 2015-16.

After returning to the second division last summer, Bolton managed to stave off relegation by one place and two points in May. They have started the new season brightly, picking up 11 points from the first six games — good enough for eighth place a month into the campaign.

That’s about as far as the good news goes, though, as the northwestern club appears headed for administration, complete with a 12-point deduction and a two-year transfer embargo. They will drop to the bottom of the table with 1 points total of -1.

[ MORE: Gareth Southgate stays quiet on new England contract ]

In financial trouble for quite some time, Bolton have flirted with administration in the past. Current owner Ken Anderson revealed on Tuesday that an official announcement could come inside 24 hours after a dispute over loan repayment went unresolved. According to Anderson, the finance company which lent him $5 million to keep the club afloat has rejected a repayment offer of the initial $5 million plus what Anderson called “substantial interest” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I am very disappointed that Stuart Wilson and Michael Henson of BluMarble Capital Ltd have decided to reject my offer to repay the loan they originally made to the club through Sportshield Ltd and place the club in administration.

“The amount received by the club was [$5 million] and I offered to repay this plus substantial interest. Unfortunately, this offer was rejected.”

“[BluMarble] will now need to fund the club administration going forward, which will take a minimum of three months and will automatically put the club in a two-year transfer embargo and a minimum immediate points deduction of 12 points.”

“In my opinion, their actions will substantially reduce the value of the club in respect of any future sale and will make it far more difficult to find a future investor/buyer.”

Cardiff City is Premier League; Playoffs, relegation set

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Cardiff City is going back up to the top flight.

City sends its headline-making owner Vincent Tan back into the Premier League, where the Bluebirds would become the second Welsh team should Swansea City avoid relegation.

[ MORE: Sir Alex in intensive care ]

Cardiff City opened the door with a scoreless first half, but Fulham politely declined to put any pressure on the Bluebirds by conceding twice in the first 45 minutes against relegation-threatened Birmingham City en route to a 3-1 loss. Cardiff drew Reading 0-0.

Cardiff was relegated from the Premier League after one season, 2013-14.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have already been promoted as Championship winners, while the playoffs begin next week.

The battle for the final spot in the Premier League will feature No. 3 Fulham, who was beaten by Birmingham City, against No. 6 Derby County, and a match-up between No. 4 Aston Villa and No. 5 Middlesbrough.

As for the relegated clubs, as results for Birmingham and Bolton Wanderers avoid a final day drop.

Bolton’s survival was quite unbelievable. Adam Le Fondre put the Wanderers ahead of Nottingham Forest in the second half, but Ben Osborn and Jack Colback scored nine minutes apart to put Bolton back in the Bottom Three. Yet David Wheater and Aaron Wilbraham scored in the 87th and 88th minutes to send the Macron Stadium into elation.

Burton Albion and Barnsley join Sunderland in heading down to League One.

Where Premier League promotion hopefuls stand with one match to go

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The second automatic Premier League promotion spot won’t be decided until the final day of the Championship, nor will the last spot in the promotion playoffs nor two relegation slots.

And the match-ups tilt heavily toward those with top-flight aspirations facing clubs fearing the drop.

Call it the haves versus the have-and-hope-to-keeps.

[ MORE: Slimani charged, Salah not ]

So, yeah, it’s going to be tense across most of the near-dozen 7:30 a.m. ET encounters

Start here:

AUTOMATICALLY YOURS: Either Cardiff City or Fulham will gain instant promotion to the Premier League, with the Bluebirds controlling their own destiny.

Cardiff vs. Reading
Birmingham City vs. Fulham

There’s an added blow to finishing third, and that’s the slowed momentum or realizing it’s going to take a lot more work. Of the last 15 playoff winners, only five were the third place team in the regular season.

Playoff fates of No. 3 teams
2017 — Reading lost final in penalties to No. 5 Huddersfield Town)
2016 — Brighton lost in the semifinals (No. 4 Hull promoted)
2015 — Norwich City won the playoffs
2014 — Derby County lost final to No. 4 QPR
2013 — Watford lost final to No. 5 Crystal Palace
2012 — West Ham United won the playoffs
2011 — Swansea City won the playoffs
2010 — Nottingham Forest lost in semis (No. 6 Blackpool promoted)
2009 — Sheffield United lost final to No. 5 Burnley
2008 — Hull City won the playoffs
2007 — Derby County won the playoffs
2006 — Brentford lost in semifinals (No. 5 Barnsley promoted)
2005 — Ipswich Town lost in semis (No. 6 West Ham promoted)
2004 — Sunderland lost in semis (No. 6 Crystal Palace promoted)
2003 — Sheffield United lost final to No. 5 Wolves

— PLAYOFF SPOTS: The third-place team will join Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and the sixth-place team in the playoffs, slated for May 11-26.

Derby County has 72 points, two more than Preston North End and three more than Millwall.

The Rams also have a nine-goal advantage on both in goal differential, so a home draw against 21st place Barnsley would be enough (although the visitors are playing for their Championship lives).

Preston also hosts a relegation-threatened club in Burton Albion, while Millwall entertains a very good, but fate-determined Aston Villa.

— RELEGATION ZONE: Three teams will go down to League One, and Sunderland is the only one assured of the drop.

Here’s how it all looks in the race to avoid 22nd and 23rd.

19. Reading — 43 pts, minus-22
20. Birmingham City — 43 pts, minus-32
21. Barnsley — 41 pts, minus-21
22. Burton Albion — 41 pts, minus-42
23. Bolton Wanderers — 40 pts, minus-36

Aside from Bolton, those teams have all been mentioned as opponents of clubs with plenty at stake. The Wanderers are home to Nottingham Forest.

Reading is away to Cardiff, Birmingham home to Fulham, Barnsley at Derby, and Burton away to Preston.

No club can honestly feel safe with just a point.