Bolton will have to play their next two league matches behind closed doors after the club’s safety advisory group decided the Championship strugglers could not guarantee fans at the University of Bolton Stadium would be safe.
The safety group, which is comprised of representatives the local council, police and emergency services, informed the English Football League on Tuesday that it has placed a prohibition notice on the club under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.
The shock news comes a day before the club are due in the High Court, facing a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs for £1.2million in unpaid tax and other debts.
The club told the group it could not address its concerns until after the court hearing, which gave the safety experts little choice but to rule that all supporters will be prevented from entering the ground for the home games against Ipswich on Saturday, April 6, and Middlesbrough on Tuesday, April 9.
In a statement, an EFL spokesman said: “Whilst disappointed, the EFL understands the rationale for the position taken by the safety advisory group at this time.
“However, we still hope the fixtures will take place as planned. We will work with the club and offer them any practical assistance that is available to us in an attempt to find a successful and timely resolution to the issue.”
The decision could not come at a worse time for Bolton, currently 23rd in the Championship, five points from safety and in dire financial straits – the club’s players are currently on a 48-hour strike after staff wages were not paid on time for the second month in a row.
They did manage to beat QPR on Saturday but the games against Ipswich and Boro are must-win if they are to have any chance of catching 21st-placed Millwall, who also have a game in hand and a much better goal difference.
The stadium blow also comes only two hours after the latest update from chairman Ken Anderson on Bolton’s website, in which he makes no mention of the safety certificate problem but does urge the players to get back to work, while denying reports that the club’s sale is in trouble and that he is holding out for a large payment.
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