Bolton wages top £21m as director plans to take control

Lingering debts of £38m are the cost of staying in the Premiership for Burnden Park club but major investor plans further cash injection
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The Independent Football

Bolton Wanderers' wage bill increased in the last financial year by £5.2m to £21.7m, it was revealed yesterday.

The figures come to light in the accounts of Burnden Leisure plc, the club's parent company, which reported a loss of £5.1m. Turnover for the year increased by £1.2m to £37.9m but the debt remains at around £38m.

New players were drafted in as the club secured a place in the Premiership for a third successive season. The chairman of Burnden Leisure, Phil Gartside, insisted that the benefits of remaining in the top flight were paramount in the £5.1m loss.

The Premiership is worth a minimum of £15m annually to the group, and Gartside said: "The significance of the football club to the group is emphasised by the revenue derived from football and, in particular, the TV revenues. We have made an enormous amount of progress in restructuring and re-establishing Bolton as a major football club in the UK."

Income from Premier League broadcasting increased from £17.6m in 2002 to £18.4m and corporate hospitality grew from £1.6m to £1.9m. Merchandising sales also rose from £1.06m to £1.15m.

As reported in yesterday's Independent, the club confirmed that the Isle of Man-based businessman Eddie Davies is poised to take control of Bolton at the end of the year.

Davies has made £14m available to the club since being appointed a non-executive director four years ago. Now he is preparing to pay £2.25m to cover a further share issue, which is exclusive to him. That would take his shareholding from 29.7 per cent to 94.5 per cent.

The injection of cash will help pay off a loan of £1.7m, which is due to the Co-operative Bank next month, but the overall effect to existing shareholders is that the value of their shareholding will be significantly reduced.

Shares valued in excess of 50p when the club floated on the stock market in 1997 will be worth 0.1p.

Shareholders will vote on the proposal at Burnden Leisure's annual general meeting on 29 December. The plan is expected to be approved, but the board is urging all individual shareholders to support the move.

Gartside claims that without Davies' involvement, Bolton would be facing serious difficulties. "He has effectively underwritten the losses we've made in establishing Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League," he said. "We are watching Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Ivan Campo courtesy of Eddie Davies.

"It is his continued support that will allow us to keep them as well as giving us a stable base to continue to work from. He is putting his money in, he's paying for it, why shouldn't he own it?"

The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, is making a move for the Celtic centre-half Johan Mjallby. Allardyce hopes to sign him for a bargain fee next month when the transfer window opens, as the Swedish international is a free agent at the end of the season.

Mjallby is on the fringes of Martin O'Neill's team but has a great pedigree and was a regular last season when they reached the Uefa Cup final. Allardyce wants more defensive muscle since he is stretched in that area and Mjallby comes within his budget.

Celtic would consider keeping Mjallby for the second half of the season if they progress in Europe, but the chance to cash in on the player is also attractive to them.

Bolton are weighing up bids for Mjallby or the Russian international Viktor Onopko, who is also being chased by Everton.

Newcastle United will spend the holiday period and beyond in front of the television cameras after it was confirmed that four of their games around the turn of the year will be screened live.

The Magpies' FA Cup third-round trip to Southampton has been chosen by the BBC as their 5.35pm kick-off on Saturday, 3 January. The Premiership clash with Blackburn will be Sky's pay-per-view offering on Sunday, 28 December, while their visit to Manchester United will be shown by the same broadcaster on Sunday, 11 January.

Fulham's trip to St James' Park has already been scheduled for Monday, 17 January for the cameras, and after successive screenings against Wolves and Liverpool over the last two weekends, Sir Bobby Robson's side are certainly getting their fair share of exposure.

Their only games which are not due to be screened over the next few weeks are the Boxing Day meeting with Leicester at the Walkers Stadium and the home clash with Leeds on Wednesday, 7 January.

Newcastle will have to wait until February to discover whether St James' Park will host the 2005 Uefa Cup final. Uefa's executive committee was due to discuss venues at the European governing body's meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, today and tomorrow, but the decision has now been put back until the next meeting on 4 and 5 February. There are five other stadiums on the shortlist, including Sunderland's Stadium of Light, Hampden Park in Glasgow, and the Estadio do Dragao, the Jose Alvalade and the Estadio da Luz in Portugal.