As of today, the 23rd of August 2019, Bury football club stand of the brink of expulsion from the English Football League due to financial issues. They have been in financial crisis since owner, Steve Dale, bought the club in December 2018 and now are staring expulsion in the eye if nobody comes forward to buy the club in the next few hours. Dale has turned down multiple offers in the last month with fans begging him to sell up and save their club. This unfortunately encapsulates everything that is wrong with modern football. Situations like what’s happening at Bury prove that the soul of football is being completely torn out, club by club by toxic owners. It would be a tragedy to see such a historic club like Bury fold because of financial issues and an owner who won’t put his ego aside and just sell up. In what’s more of a sombre post, today I’m taking a look at the sad case of Bury FC and a few other clubs on how this unfortunately is a problem in English football that is far too common.
For a bit of history and context, Bury FC are a League 1 football team founded in 1885 based in Bury, Greater Manchester. They’ve won the FA Cup twice in 1900 and 1903 (holding the joint record for the biggest win in the final, beating Derby 6-0) and won promotion last season from League 2, the Fourth tier in English football’s top 4 leagues. However it came to light in April 2019 that players and staff had not been paid their March salaries on time as well as HMRC claiming the club needed to pay around £277,000. With the club needing to sell up for around £1.6 million in all to pay off all their debts, Steve Dale set up a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) where those associated with the club would receive their money owed whilst others who needed money (HMRC etc.) would receive 25%. This however is deemed as insolvency in the eyes of the EFL meaning they were deducted 12 points before the start of the new season. After the EFL concluded that Bury had insufficient funds to keep the club alive and pay the CVA, they’ve been given the deadline of the 23rd of August to accumulate the funds or face expulsion from the Football League. Which unfortunately brings us to today. The club have only a few hours left to attract a new buyer or they’ll be kicked out if the football league. This is a heart-breaking scenario which no fan or club should ever have to go through, this is not what football’s about.
However this is not too uncommon in the English game with other clubs experiencing similar fates in the past or the present. Bolton Wanderers are going through a similar situation with the club going into administration in May of this year with a huge debt and recently postponed their game against Doncaster Rovers which was due to be played on the 20th of August. Players gave a statement in July that nobody had been paid by the owner, Ken Anderson, for nearly 20 weeks with non-player staff having to rely on food banks. They also had no drinking water at their training ground or hot water in their showers. Bolton, like Bury, began the season with a twelve point deduction due to their administration status. Their future is unknown having to field young players this season with many senior team players leaving in the summer transfer window and no incomings. The same situation has happened at clubs such as Portsmouth, Blackpool, Coventry, Sunderland, Charlton, Newcastle and many others, I could list clubs that have been horribly run all day. Clubs with big histories with incompetent owners who are doing far more harm than good with some of the mentioned ending up going into administration and severe financial issues. Some of the clubs mentioned have managed to make positive changes with the Oyston family finally selling Blackpool and Ellis Short selling Sunderland to a consortium led by Stewart Donald, these are huge catalysts in the need for change in clubs with toxic owners. Maybe this can give hope to other clubs that positive change can happen and it isn’t over until it’s truly over.
As a football fan, it breaks my heart to see that a community could have their club ripped away from them. Football is about fans. It’s about following your team through the highest of highs and the most devastating lows. It’s about the midweek losses on a freezing winter’s night in the pouring rain so the good times feel even better. A parent taking their child to the football for the first time and the look on their face seeing their team, creating a memory that will last forever. The pies, cups of tea, bovril and lukewarm pints of lager in squashy plastic cups. Fans standing and chanting all game, questionable refereeing, becoming enemies with the away team and fans for 90 minutes then friends after the final whistle (unless it’s a local derby, obviously). The big derbies and rivalries, getting drawn against a huge club in the cup and possibly causing an upset by beating them. The last minute winners, the limbs and unforgettable scenes, celebrating with the person stood next to you who you’ve never met before but that doesn’t matter because you’ve both got one important thing in common, the love for your club. It’s making friends and creating fond memories all in the name of football and supporting your team. Is that something you honestly want to take away, Steve Dale? Football isn’t just a game, it’s so much more than that for the reasons mentioned and so many more. I’d hate to see my club in such a state which makes it always a tragedy whenever it happens to any football club, especially one like Bury with such a huge and important history. Today the footballing world stand with Bury in hope that an agreement can be made and the club will be saved, to see Bury fold would not only be a dark day in the history of Bury FC or the EFL but to football as a whole.