Bury have been expelled from the English Football League after 125 years of continued membership after the EFL board finally ran out of patience with its financial collapse and owner, Steve Dale. He had been given a deadline of 5pm BST on Tuesday, after a series of previous deadlines were not met, either to provide proof he has the money to finance the club and its debts or to conclude a sale.
At 3pm on Tuesday a proposed deal to sell the club to C&N Sporting Risk, a data and analytics company owned by Rory Campbell, formerly a technical scout and analyst at West Ham, and Henry Newman, a coach and former joint manager of Barnet, collapsed. Campbell and Newman announced in a statement they were unable to resolve problems relating to a mortgage on the Gigg Lane ground and “the overall financial state of the club”, and were not proceeding. Their statement explicitly made clear the breakdown was not because of the tight deadline but “reflective of the systemic failings of a football club over a number of years”.
The EFL board – six club representatives with the executive chair, Debbie Jevans, and the nonexecutive director Simon Bazalgette – then considered Bury’s position in a meeting conducted by conference call beginning at 5pm. Bury had been given a 14-day notice of expulsion from the EFL on 9 August, which was due to expire on Friday, until it was extended to Tuesday. Some EFL sources were making it clear that, despite the groundswell of sympathy for a historic club and their supporters, a view was hardening that the club had failed to pay their way, winning promotion despite being unable to pay their players, and that the EFL board needed to assert its seriousness by sticking to so firm a deadline.
In a statement released at 11.04pm after long consideration, which included Dale saying that three last-minute offers had been made, the EFL board announced that it had decided Bury’s membership of the league would be withdrawn. “Having fully considered all available options, including a number of late expressions of interest provided to the EFL, the EFL board has unanimously determined with enormous regret that Bury’s membership be withdrawn.”
The statement added that the board believed there should be an investigation into the financial ruins of the club: “Recent events have highlighted how decisions taken at Bury FC over the last few seasons have caused the club and individuals close to it significant financial distress and there are a number of matters which, in our view, will require further investigation.”
Bury’s name will be removed from League One and the Football League for the first time since the club joined the old Second Division in 1894. League One will be played between 23 clubs, including Bolton. Three clubs will be relegated at the end of the season and four promoted from League Two and the clubs will discuss at their next meeting in September how to deal with the number of clubs in League Two.
The expulsion of the stalwart club is a monumental failure under Dale, who bought Bury for £1 in December from Stewart Day. He had maintained them since his own takeover in 2013 with borrowings from his property companies. A mortgage on Gigg Lane was taken out during Day’s tenure with a firm based in Crosby, Capital Bridging Finance Solutions, about which Dale publicly raised concerns after taking over, saying the loans were up to £3.7m. When the loans were made, 40% of the money did not go to Bury but was instead paid to unnamed third parties as introduction fees.
Campbell and Newman are understood to have been particularly concerned about that mortgage and were unable to reach an agreement with Capital for a reduced figure to pay off the £3.7m and release it.
Within weeks of Day selling the club several of his property companies collapsed into administration, owing millions to lenders and investors. Dale, however, never satisfied the league that he had the necessary money to sustain the club, a requirement of EFL rules for new owners before a takeover or, at the latest, 10 days later. Throughout nine months in charge Dale has never provided the EFL with the evidence of funding it has required.
Finally, after the club’s first five matches were suspended, and repeated deadlines missed, the EFL board met with a resolution not to delay again and expelled a 134-year-old fixture of English football.
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