Bury, one of the most historic names in English football, has been expelled from the English Football League (EFL), which has described its decision as marking one of the “darkest days” in the organisation’s recent history.
The Greater Manchester club, which was promoted from League Two into League One last season, has had its EFL membership revoked following the collapse of a potential takeover after years of financial strife.
Bury, which was founded in 1885, had been granted a final deadline of 5pm GMT yesterday (Tuesday) to demonstrate how it would meet its financial commitments under current owner Steve Dale, or secure new ownership. Dale took over a club already in serious financial difficulty in December after acquiring it for a nominal £1 (€1.1/$1.2) from previous incumbent Stewart Day.
This extension was provided on Friday after Dale announced he had found a new owner, with the extra time granted to seal the takeover. However, on Tuesday afternoon C&N Sporting Risk, a data and analytics company, announced it was pulling out of the deal stating it was unable to resolve problems relating to a mortgage on Bury’s Gigg Lane stadium and “the overall financial state of the club”.
Having already had its first five League One games of the 2019-20 season suspended, as well as being withdrawn from the EFL Cup, the EFL on Tuesday evening gave its verdict. The EFL Board maintained that there could be no further suspensions to the fixture list and that these ongoing concerns and the integrity of the competition were a significant factor in the decision.
The EFL highlighted how decisions taken at Bury over the last few seasons had caused the club and individuals close to it “significant financial distress” adding there are a number of matters which require further investigation.
Debbie Jevans, EFL executive chair, said: “Today is undoubtedly one of the darkest days in the League’s recent history. The EFL has worked determinedly and tirelessly to avoid this outcome and it is with a heavy heart that this situation has been forced upon us.
“The EFL has to place the integrity of our competitions at the heart of every decision we make, and we simply cannot allow this unacceptable situation to continue or countenance the prospect of postponing further fixtures.
“No one wanted to be in this position but following repeated missed deadlines, the suspension of five League fixtures, in addition to not receiving the evidence we required in regard to financial commitments and a possible takeover not materialising; the EFL Board has been forced to take the most difficult of decisions.”
Bury had already seen a winding-up petition against the club adjourned three times, before being eventually dismissed by the High Court in July. The Guardian said Day had maintained Bury following his 2013 takeover with borrowings from his property companies, several of which collapsed following his sale of the club.
The newspaper added that a mortgage on Gigg Lane (pictured) was taken out during Day’s term in charge with a company, Capital Bridging Finance Solutions, about which Dale publicly raised concerns after his takeover, saying the loans were up to £3.7m. When the loans were agreed, 40% of the money was paid to unnamed third parties, rather than Bury, as introduction fees.
C&N Sporting Risk owners Rory Campbell and Henry Newman are said to have been particularly concerned about the mortgage deal and were unable to reach an agreement with Capital for a reduced figure to pay off the £3.7m and release it.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live today, Newman said: “We did absolutely everything we could to try and get everything in place to try and make sure the takeover went through. Ultimately though, it was six years of a combination of financial mismanagement, errors in governance and issues that ultimately meant that to unravel them, in what was a short period of time, were incredibly difficult.”
He added: “The financial structures that were put in place were something that I’d never seen before and certainly were unsustainable. My sympathy really does go out to the community as a whole at Bury because ultimately they’re the ones that have suffered as a result of this. It was financially unsustainable and it’s absolutely imperative that structures are put in place to ensure that something like this can’t happen again.”
Following the EFL’s decision the future of Bury and Gigg Lane, the club’s home since its foundation, is uncertain. The future of fellow crisis-club Bolton Wanderers also remains in the balance. The EFL yesterday gave the League One team a further 14 days to secure a new owner, or demonstrate it meets all outstanding requirements of the League’s insolvency policy, otherwise its membership will also be withdrawn.
Image: Bury FC