Bolton put fans first for 'memorable night' with Sporting

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The Independent Online

The Bolton chairman, Phil Gartside, has revealed he turned down lucrative offers to televise their Uefa Cup game against Sporting Lisbon at the Reebok Stadium tomorrow because the kick-off time would not have suited supporters.

Bolton made club history to reach the last 16 and there is much interest in the first leg against the Portuguese side. Gartside wants to stay true to loyal supporters, even though Bolton could cash in on money from television broadcasters by selling the rights to the game.

"On what will be another memorable night in the club's history, we want to make our fans the priority," Gartside said. "We therefore needed to ensure that the match would kick off at a convenient time for the majority of supporters. We had one offer, which would have required us to kick off at 7pm. This would have left many people struggling to arrive on time after work.

"Another broadcaster requested a kick off time of 8.45pm, which would have been too late for the many younger supporters we have attracted to the game."

Bolton secured their place in the last 16 of the competition after they knocked Atletico Madrid out in the last round with a 1-0 aggregate victory. El Hadji Diouf scored the only goal of the first leg in front of 26,163 fans at the Reebok Stadium before Gary Megson's side held Atletico to a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid.

Wanderers now face Sporting at the Reebok tomorrow and then travel to Lisbon for the second leg at the Jose Alvalade Stadium on 13 March.

The club's commercial director, Gareth Moores, said he hoped the atmosphere at the Reebok for the match against Paulo Bento's side will be as good as the one for the win over Atletico.

"That game was memorable, not only for the victory, but also the stunning atmosphere generated by a sell-out crowd," Moore said. "We wanted to ensure that we were able to put the supporters in a position where that atmosphere can be replicated against Sporting. By kicking off at our traditional evening game time of 8pm, it puts our fans in a good position to do just that."

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