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Shareholders feel the pain of Bolton's fall

THE growing financial gulf between football clubs in the Premier League and those in the First Division was thrown into sharp focus again yesterday when shares in Burnden Leisure collapsed after Bolton Wanderers, the club it owns, crashed out of the game's top flight.

Bolton Wanderers' disastrous 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea at the weekend consigned the team to the First Division after only one season back in the Premiership. The result saw pounds 6m wiped off the stock market value of Burnden Leisure yesterday. The shares tumbled by more than a fifth to 17p, down 5p, as the City anticipated a sharp drop in profits next season.

Bolton will miss out on millions of pounds worth of television income which they would have been entitled to in the Premier League as part of a lucrative contract with BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster.

Gate revenues and merchandise sales are also bound to suffer in the First Division, with the lack of high profile opponents likely to attract smaller crowds.

The defeat for Bolton was particularly cruel for shareholders, who have already had a terrible season. Burnden's shares have slumped from a peak of 62.5p last year. They had begun to recover as hopes of Premier league survival gained ground, only for investors to see Bolton fall at the final hurdle by losing their last match of the season.

However Bolton, which have recently built a new state-of-the-art stadium, still have a strong local support and analysts believe the club could still be profitable in the First Division.