Bury's Financial Plight Should Be A Warning To Others
The business of running a football club in the lower tiers of English football is a massive challenge at the best of times. Clubs regularly struggle to survive and those that avoid serious financial problems are almost guaranteed to make a loss each financial year.
This can be managed with the right owners using prudent financial planning and a sensible approach to the football side of things, but this has not been the case for a number of clubs in 2018-19.
Bolton Wanderers face financial ruin but hope that a new owner will be able to bring the club back from the brink, even if it means a second successive relegation in 2019-20. Macclesfield have struggled to pay their players, with many of them adding owed wages onto a High Court winding up petition.
The one club, however, that looks to be in the most trouble is Bury FC. The team won promotion to the third tier last season after some incredible performances on the pitch, but as the campaign was nearing an end, it became apparent that things off the field were very serious indeed.
Why are Bury in such financial trouble?
The Shakers have found themselves in such peril mainly due to the excesses of spending under previous owner Stewart Day, who attempted to bankroll the club into the Championship by spending large amounts of money on wages. In the summer of 2017, he approved the signings of Jermaine Beckford and Chris Maguire to name but two, who were both on wages that the club could ill afford.
— Bury Football Club (@buryfcofficial) May 12, 2017
That campaign proved disastrous and instead of heading up via promotion, the club finished bottom of League One, going through a number of different managers during the season.
Chasing a place in the Championship, where clubs receive around £6m from solidarity payments, has seen teams spend big money in the past – but as Rotherham prove, not all owners risk their club’s future. The Millers are owned by Tony Stewart, a local businessman and fan of the club. He refuses to spend more than he can afford to chase success, which has seen Rotherham fail to establish themselves in the second tier but never experience the financial problems that plagued them before he took over the club.
They are a great example to follow for the three sides, Luton, Barnsley and Charlton, heading into the Championship in 2019-20. All three are amongst the favourites to head straight back down according to Championship betting markets, but that could be a preferable outcome than not existing altogether.
The sad exodus
When a football club struggles, it affects an entire community. The staff working at the club are usually the first to lose their jobs or go unpaid while fans suffer as they wait, in hope, for news that a deal to save their team has gone through.
I understand that #BuryFC have given Plymouth permission to talk to Ryan Lowe about their vacant manager’s position.
— Mike Minay (@MikeMinay) 14 May 2019
Bury have seen almost the entire squad that won promotion last year leave on free transfers due to unpaid wages and their manager, Ryan Lowe, has taken over at Plymouth Argyle. To make matters worse, Bury have been kicked out of their training ground by Manchester City for breach of contract and owner Steve Dale is desperately trying to get a CVA through the courts.
The plight of Bury should stand as a warning to others about the need for financial prudence when running any club, but it is hard to believe we will not see this cycle start all over again at the next side to chase glory and riches.