The Offshore Game can reveal that Companies House has started enforcement action against the company which controls Bolton Wanderers Football Club after the club failed to file their annual accounts. Bolton’s accounts for 2015 are now more than 6 months past their due date.
Failing to file annual accounts is a criminal offence for which both the company and the directors can be held liable. If a director is found to be guilty of multiple offences, then court action can be taken to disqualify a director.
This will make worrying reading for Ken Anderson, current chairman of the club. Bolton Wanderers Football and Athletic Company Limited, the company operating the club, is not the only company he controls which is late with its filings. Other companies he is a director of which are late filing their accounts are Fronesis Learning Limited, Bolton Whites Hotel Limited, Bolton Sporting Ventures Limited, Burnden Leisure Limited, Bolton Sports Leisure Limited, and Bolton Sports Village Limited. All are registered at the Macron and are associated companies of Bolton Football Club.
Anderson as many will be aware was also previously disqualified as a director after being found unlawfully transferring a company’s cash into his own bank account. A previous takeover attempt of Southampton Football Club in 2006 by people associated with Anderson met with an angry response by then board of Southampton who wrote to shareholders warning them about Anderson. The letter read:
“Whilst not a prospective Board member, Ken Anderson, an employee of Vantis plc, has been responsible for developing much of Mr Wilde’s approach particularly soliciting the sale of shares to Mr Wilde and advising Mr Wilde.
Mr Anderson’s business card describes him as ‘Group Director’. In October 05, Mr Anderson was banned from holding directorship of a company until 2013. Mr Anderson has been involved in several liquidations and his record at the Insolvency Service reveals that he has been found guilty of diverting funds receivable by a company into personal accounts, VAT discrepancies, and failure to cooperate with Receivers….
You must seriously ask yourself whether Mr Wilde has really assembled the Board of ‘exceptional business people’ that he claims, and whether those people are better for SLH and the Club than your current Board which has performed well for you over the years.”
It is difficult to see how his previous conduct will put him in a good light if he finds himself in front of a judge over the current debacle at Bolton.
Bolton in trouble again?
Of more concern to the fans than any potential legal difficulties this might cause for Ken Anderson is the potential impact this is having on the club. Bolton’s past financial difficulties are well documented. We covered their latest flirtation with bankruptcy here. The takeover of the club by Dean Holdsworth and Ken Anderson was supposed to signal a new beginning.
But could these latest problems be a sign that things are not going as well as planned? The failure of a company to file accounts is usually one of the first signs that things are going wrong, as directors seek to delay publishing bad news.
What is interesting about this case is that the accounts relate to the previous period of ownership. What could the new owners possibly be trying to hide? One possible explanation is that the report will have to reveal financial details of the takeover by Anderson and Holdsworth.
When we asked the club about the accounts, they responded by saying:
“The majority shareholders (Inner Circle Investments and Sports Shield BWFC Ltd – both UK based companies) and the directors (Ken Anderson and Dean Holdsworth) are well aware of the outstanding filing of statutory accounts for the club and group which is a situation that they inherited when they took over ownership and control of the club.
The directors have kept the EFL informed as to the club’s financial position and are looking to address the outstanding filings as soon as they are in a position to do so.”
We pointed out to the club that the filing deadline fell after the date of the takeover, and so could hardly be considered a legacy issue. They responded by saying they wouldn’t comment further. The club also pointed out that Mr Anderson would be meeting with fans on the 23th of November.
The Bolton Wanderers Football Club Supporters Trust is less than impressed. Ian Bridge, their chair told us:
“We have expressed our concerns to Mr Anderson, the club Chairman, and in particular sought clarification from him regarding the reasons why the accounts have still not been filed. The annual accounts convey vital information to supporters and having come close to winding up earlier this year we hoped the accounts would give us some comfort that the club, following the takeover, had at least sufficient funding available to pass the Going Concern test. Mr Anderson declined to discuss the matter with us at this present time.”
The going concern test is whether a company has enough resources to meet its financial obligations for the next year. When filing accounts, directors need to declare whether they believe that the company can meet this test - which may well be another reason why the directors are delaying filing.
Where are the Football League and FA?
The case raises serious questions for the Football League and the FA, over how they allowed Bolton to get itself into this position and what action they have taken to rectify the situation.
Just months after they handed control of Bolton to Anderson, a person with previous for not taking his duties as a director seriously, the club finds itself in trouble. Many may well be asking how the Football League managed to find Mr Anderson a fit and proper person to take over the club in the first place. And what conditions, if any, did they put on Anderson? Did he have to put any of his own cash into the club? Does he have skin in the game? If others provided the money, what is their role? and has their suitability been assessed?
What is more, failing to file company accounts appears to be a clear breach of the EFL rules, which state that clubs must file accounts with the league no later than the date at which they must file with companies house. The relevant rule is fairly clear and reads as follows:
16.2 Each Club shall submit a copy of its Annual Accounts (as defined in Regulation 16.3 below) to The League, but in any event:
16.2.1 by no later than 1st March following the end of the financial year to which those Annual Accounts relate (in the case of a Championship Club); or
16.2.2 by no later than the date on which the Club is required to file its accounts at Companies House (in case of League One and League Two Clubs).
Yet the League has apparently taken no action so far.
We contacted the EFL who refused to answer any questions about the issue, simply telling us they were aware of the matter and were in contact with the club. The supporters trust has also been in touch with the league too. They told us:
“we have asked the Football League, as part of their post-takeover monitoring conditions, to look into this matter [the non filing of company accounts]. Football supporters have to be able to rely on the regulators, both the EFL and FA, to have the interests of football fans and community stakeholders at heart.”
The Parliamentary Committee on Culture Media and Sport are currently holding an inquiry into football governance. They too may want to ask questions about what is going on. They may want to add this to a pile of evidence that the football authorities are either incapable or unwilling to protect the integrity of the game, or the interests of the fans. They may wish to consider what steps Parliament can take itself.