After months of waiting and an extra week-long delay after the EFL’s independent disciplinary panel postponed their meeting last week, Bolton Wanderers are finally set to learn about their punishment for missing two EFL fixtures.
Bolton have been charged with misconduct for failing to fulfil last season’s final home match against Brentford, which was awarded as a 1-0 win to the away side and this campaign’s home clash with Doncaster Rovers, the future of which is undecided.
There has been no small amount of debate surrounding Bolton’s potential punishment with plenty of speculation about the severity of a potential further points deduction for Bolton.
But what are the most likely outcomes for Keith Hill’s side?
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The EFL’s independent disciplinary panel are likely to offer one of three verdicts, Bolton are punished for one of the two matches missed, both matches or neither of them.
The exact punishment for failing to fulfil the two matches is left to the discretion of the disciplinary panel as, according to the EFL’s rules on the arrangement of fixtures, each case of an unfulfilled match is treated in isolation, meaning that any past examples of similar incidents will not affect the decision this time around.
As a result, we won’t know for sure what punishment the disciplinary panel feel is suitable until it is revealed on Friday.
Comment: What punishment should Bolton receive?
There has been a lot of heated debate among supporters and commentators about the severity of punishment Bolton should receive with the most commonly touted being another points deduction, just as Keith Hill’s side near positive points for the first time this season.
Whether that’s for both the Brentford and Doncaster matches or just one of them, is another matter.
Deducting points for last season’s Brentford match, where players went on strike over unpaid wages, would be utterly pointless in the eyes of many.
For a start, the fixture was last season and was seemingly put to rest when the EFL awarded Brentford a 1-0 win by default. On top of that, anyone involved in the financial side of the club at that point, those responsible for the unpaid wages and the club falling into administration, are now long gone.
Adding an extra points deduction onto the -12 points received for entering administration would have just been kicking Bolton while they were down.
The more complicated issue of the two is, without doubt, the missed Doncaster Rovers match from August this campaign.
Wanderers cancelled the home fixture citing ‘player welfare’ as, according to Premier League rules, youth players are only supposed to play once a week but Bolton’s thrown-together side was being forced to participate in a gruelling Saturday-Tuesday League One fixture list.
The biggest issue surrounding this unfulfilled Doncaster fixture is the way in which the club cancelled the match.
The EFL rules state that The League must be given adequate notice and a compelling motive for the postponement of a fixture. However, Bolton seemingly took it upon themselves to cancel the match with a social media announcement, much to the displeasure of Doncaster Rovers fans.
While actually playing the fixture would certainly be the best way to resolve the issue, a ‘fair’ punishment for Bolton would surely be to give Doncaster the win by default in the same vein as Brentford last season rather than punishing the club with another points deduction for trying to protect its young players.
Either way, the decision rests entirely with the EFL’s disciplinary panel whose verdict should become clear soon.
One thing that is certain, however, is that it’ll be a huge relief to finally draw a line under this whole sorry mess and fully focus on trying to stay in League One.