Bury's Demise: Kicked Out Of The EFL
Following weeks and months of trials and tribulations, one of England’s oldest football clubs – Bury FC – has been expelled from the English Football League (EFL). The club failed to show proof of funds or complete a successful takeover by the 5pm deadline on Tuesday 27th August. As a result, they’ve become the first club to drop out of the league since Maidstone in 1992.
134 years of history
Established in 1885, Bury are among the oldest football clubs in the country. In 1900, they lifted the now-prestigious FA Cup – and did so again in 1903, with a record-high win that still stands today, beating Derby County 6-0. They achieved their highest league finish way back in 1926, coming fourth in the top tier.
However, more recently, they’ve enjoyed mixed fortunes. Bury have dwelled in the third and fourth divisions of English football since the turn of the millennium, and were forced into administration in 2001. After a heroic supporters’ campaign to keep the club afloat, Bury’s directors promised never to gamble with the club again. Unlike the fun and games of online casino roulette, football is not the place for taking chances. Unfortunately, that promise lasted just over a decade.
Stewart Day’s takeover
In late 2012, on their return to the third tier of English football, Bury again fell into financial difficulty. They were relegated that season, before being taken over by property investor Stewart Day – who promised a five-year plan to get the club into the Championship. That included a new 15-20,000 capacity stadium.
Unfortunately, it soon transpired Day was indeed gambling with the club’s finances. A Guardian report revealed that he had been taking large high-interest loans out, secured by the club’s stadium. It wasn’t long before the club was again in desperate need of a new owner…
Enter Steve Dale
Bury FC was taken over by businessman Steve Dale at the end of 2018. He paid an overdue tax bill to avoid a winding-up order from HMRC, but was unable to truly stabilise the club.
By March 2019, players began to complain about unpaid wages. At the close of the 2018-19 season – when Bury were again promoted to League One – it was clear they were in serious trouble.
July saw a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) approved, where companies owed by Bury would receive 25% of the money due. This saw Bury deducted 12 points. Despite their debt being quartered, Bury could still not provide proof of funds to the EFL to pay off the remaining debt.
That saw a total of six matches suspended while the EFL awaited Bury’s documents. On 8th August, they were given 14 days as a final deadline, which was later extended by a further four days. Unfortunately, despite claims of a late takeover bid, Bury were unable to secure the funds required to remain in the EFL.
Day, Dale or EFL?
At the heart of this crisis lies one big question – who is at fault? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. As a club, Bury FC – like others – has developed a reputation for overspending on players’ wages to achieve promotion. That has left fans of other clubs, who missed out on promotion as a result of Bury’s overspending, feeling slightly aggrieved.
On the other hand, many fans point the finger at the EFL themselves, who arguably failed to scrutinise the takeover of their club by the likes of Stewart Day and Steve Dale. Worryingly, if this is the case, there could be many more cases like Bury going forward.