League One fixture crisis deepens as managers take aim at EFL over Bolton and Bury woe

Danny Cowley and Joey Barton have heavily criticised the EFL as the League One fixture list continues to be affected by Bolton and Bury’s financial problems.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 4:45 pm
Joey Barton has taken aim at the EFL for their handling of Bolton and Bury's financial issues

Bolton chose to postpone their fixture against Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night amid concerns over the welfare of the young players they are currently dependent on as administrators continue to try and finalise a takeover of the club.

The EFL said in response that they are ‘acutely aware’ of how that risked the integrity of the competition.

They also heavily criticised Bolton for not consulting either themselves or Doncaster Rovers before announcing the postponement.

Cowley’s Lincoln City are due to face Darren Moore’s side on Saturday afternoon and he believes his side will be at a disadvantage.

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Lincoln were beaten 2-1 by MK Dons on Tuesday night, a side who have played one less game than the vast majority of the division owing to their opening-day clash with Bury being postponed.

“It’s a huge disadvantage for us, there’s no hiding place from that, and no doubt Darren Moore [the Doncaster manager] was here watching us [at MK Dons],” Cowley told Lincolnshire Live.

“They’ve now had a free week while we’ve played five games this month so far. We’ve got nine games in a month and we’ve only got 18 players and have two long-term injuries.

“So what do I do on Friday? Do I cancel the game and let everyone know by social media?

“I’m perplexed and I’m disappointed by the EFL, but I genuinely feel sorry for Bolton and Bury.

“I feel sorry for their staff and players, I feel sorry for the people and the communities because I know how important these football clubs are to them.

“But I’m frustrated and annoyed that the EFL have allowed it to get to this stage.

“They have to do fit and proper tests to ensure the calibre of the person [to take over a club] is suitable. The EFL have got a lot to answer for.

“English football has the best pyramid system in the whole world. We have the Premier League, which is the best league in the world, and the EFL closely follows.

“But the situation now is hugely affecting the integrity of the competition.

“I feel sorry for Doncaster because they should have played. On the back of Bolton losing 5-0 to Tranmere on Saturday, there’s a good chance Doncaster would have won tonight,” he added.

“I feel sorry for us because MK Dons have played 25 per cent less than us because they didn’t play Bury on the first day of the season.

“So there are huge issues with the integrity of the division. A league should be a level playing field and it’s not a level playing field.”

Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton also took aim at the EFL, saying the crisis was ‘making a mockery’ of a ‘fantastic league’.

“Something needs to be done about it sooner rather than later because it is ruining what was a great league last year and it is making a mockery of our league,” he told the Blackpool Gazette.

"Sorry to rant on about it but the conduct of the powers that be has annoyed me because League One last year was a fantastic league. It was really competitive and great to watch.

"You look at the league table in the paper and it looks like a bit of a Mickey Mouse league. Hopefully they sort it out and teams can fulfil fixtures.

"What am I going to say now? Can I postpone our game against Accy because we have a couple injuries?

"We have players out injured. I can wait another week and get Ched [Evans] back. It is a farce."

Bolton, currently on -11 points for the season, are still waiting to hear what punshment they will face for failing to fulfil a league fixture against Brentford last season.

Bury could be expelled from the league on Friday after the EFL’s latest statement on the issue last night, again insisting that owner Steve Dale had failed to provide adequate evidence that the club could fulfil it’s financial obligations for the upcoming season.

An 11th hour takeover bid was understood to be rejected.

A statement said: “If a solution is not found by the deadline, the Board will authorise the necessary share transfer on behalf of Bury FC which shall be legally binding on all parties and result, regretfully, in the Club no longer being a member of the League.

“Should this happen, Bury’s record from the 2019/20 season would be expunged with League One consisting of 23 Clubs for the remainder of the campaign and the number of relegation places reduced to three at the conclusion of 2019/20 season. Four promotion places would remain from League Two ensuring a full complement of 24 teams in League One in 2020/21.

“Bury would then be free to make an application to the Football Association to re-join league competition further down the English football pyramid from season 2020/21.”

Sunderland are due to travel to Bolton on September 21st and Bury on December 21st.

The scheduled return fixtures see Bolton Wanderers visit the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day, before Bury travel to the north east on March 21st.